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Life or Death: President Highlights Palestine In SONA

by Zahid Jadwat

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the 2024 Sona. [Picture: GCIS].


South Africa’s foreign policy took greater prominence this year when President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA). This was his last before the nation goes to the polls.

The statesman reiterated support for the Palestinian cause, describing it as a matter of life and death. He said South Africa’s foreign policy was “guided by the fundamental principle of human rights and freedom”, and thus “we have taken up the Palestinian cause to prevent further deaths and destruction in Gaza”.

The president’s address came as more than 27 000 people were butchered in the killing fields of Gaza and the Occupied West Bank. Political parties were divided about the emphasis on South Africa’s ‘peacemaker’ role on the world stage.


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Divided opinion over SONA

Reacting on Thursday, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) leader John Steenhuisen suggested the president was finding “refuge” in international relations amid widespread failure on the local front.

However, he said the party respected the recent judgement handed down by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“The president’s obviously finding refuge in international issues because it makes talking about domestic issues a lot easier. The ICJ matter has been now decided by an international court and the ruling needs to be respected by all parties to it … As a party of international law, we want that implemented to the letter.”

He further stated the libertarian party would “make sure” it would do what it could “to bring both sides to the table to find lasting peace” that would see Israel living next to a “sovereign, unoccupied Palestine”.

This was quite drastic to the position of the far-right Freedom Front Plus (FF+), which berated the current administration for putting a hand in international matters.

“He must focus on the problems of South Africa. He is misusing this international situation, trying [to get] people to vote for the ANC. The crises in South Africa should be his number one priority; I don’t see it. In fact, this evening, I heard a lot of stories but there’s nothing else than a lot of fables.”

The National Freedom Party’s (NFP) Ahmed Shaik Emam was scathing in his criticism of what he saw as the African National Congress’s (ANC) duplicity on the Palestinian cause. He pointed to the passing of a motion to close the Israeli embassy (but non-action) as a case in point.

“Why did you support it, amend it, approve it, and then do nothing about it? Is this just to show the public? Did you expect anything different from the ICJ? People are still dying in Palestine everyday and the genocide is continuing. What are we doing about it?”


Meanwhile, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday ordered his military to submit a plan of action for Rafah. The plan, he said, would entail the evacuation of civilians and further attacks on the resistance movement Hamas. There are nearly two million civilians sheltering in the southern Gaza city.

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