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Parties Posturing On Palestinian Cause In Hopes of Electoral Victory

by Zahid Jadwat

President Cyril Ramaphosa along with other officials at the Football4Humanity match between Palestine and Western Cape X1 on Sunday. They are accused of posturing ahead of the 2024 elections. [Picture: Selaelo Makhwidiri/Salaamedia]

 

The South African people relate to the struggle of the Palestinians, and they are sincere in it. However, their political leaders have been accused of posturing with the hope of riding the wave of solidarity into electoral victory at the polls later this year.

This was on full display at the Football4Humanity match between the Palestinian football team and the local Western Cape X1 team. They went head-to-head at a half-packed Athlone Stadium, Cape Town, on Sunday.

The African National Congress’s (ANC) President Cyril Ramaphosa was applauded for backing the Palestinian cause. In contrast, Mayor Geordin-Hill Lewis of the Democratic Alliance (DA) was booed over his party’s stance.

 

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Posturing

Flanked by his ministers of international relations, sports and justice respectively, Ramaphosa took the opportunity at Sunday’s event to tell the crowd and the nation his party had done the most for the Palestinian cause.

“Today, we celebrate humanity, we celebrate friendship … We have said to them and to the world that we are following in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela, who said to us and who taught us that our freedom will not be complete until the freedom of the Palestinians is also achieved,” he told an electric crowd.

But the DA’s prized mayor looked awkward alongside his rivals to the left. Granted the City of Cape Town had sponsored the event, there was much to wonder why he was there. Was he sent to test the water? Was he sent to save the party’s face from negative sentiment over its stance?

Whatever his purpose on the pitch that day, he looked uncomfortable. Something more interesting must have pinged on his phone because that’s what he was looking at while Palestinian minister of Sports Jibril Rajoub addressed spectators.

Sure, the ANC-led government led the charge against Apartheid Israel’s genocide in Gaza at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Sure, the DA-led Cape Town municipality painted over solidarity murals.

But, when it comes to it, is the Palestinian cause a sincere one for either of them? They both support a two-state solution. They both dragged their feet until polls indicated the prospects of the upcoming elections were damningly unfavourable.

It might be appropriate to reflect on the remarks of the National Freedom Party’s (NFP) parliamentary leader Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam on Thursday.

The long-forgotten, but absolutely important, resolution to shutdown the Israeli embassy in Pretoria was dwarfed by the ICJ win. Yet it presents insight into the kind of politics the ANC has played on the Palestinian cause.

“Why did you support it, amend it, approve it, and then do nothing about it? Is this just to show the public?” demanded Emam, whose party was the only one to introduce such a motion in the first place.

Ramaphosa’s minister of justice, Ronald Lamola, was asked about this on the sidelines of the match. He opted to protect the image of the ANC as moral crusaders by going back to Nelson Mandela’s legacy.

“Mandela started it,” he said. “With the escalation after 7 October, it was clear that we needed to take a stand and go to the ICJ to stop this. So, whoever says it’s because of politics … it’s misplaced, it’s misdirected; neither has got any basis because we have a history and a track record of solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

Recent polling data showed the actual show-down of the imminent national elections would be between the ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and DA. The ANC’s support was waning, but the DA too might haemorrhage support among Coloured voters in the Western Cape. The genocide could not have come at a more opportune time for either party.




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