‘For how long will SA envoy remain in Israel to sort personal ‘family matter?’

By Al-Qalam Reporter

When news broke that the SA envoy to Israel, Sisa Ngombane – who was recalled last year after the Zionist state killed 55 Palestinians – had quietly slipped back to Tel Aviv to take up his post, the Government confirmed he had left – but ONLY to attend to some personal family matter.

But Durban Human Rights activist and constitutional law expert, Saber Ahmed Jazbhay asked sarcastically: “Don’t treat us like gullible people Madame Sizulu. What personal family related business is our Ambassador to Israel attending there?”

 A hurriedly worded statement was issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said it had noted reports that South Africa’s Ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, has returned to Tel Aviv.

“The South African Ambassador is still recalled for consultations and has not resumed his duties as an Ambassador for South Africa in Israel.  Ambassador Ngombane travelled to Israel to deal with urgent family and personal issues. He is expected to return to South Africa as soon as these are completed.

“The conditions that prompted the recall of our Ambassador to Israel for consultations in Pretoria has not changed. Any change in status in our diplomatic relations with the State of Israel will be communicated by the Department after due consultations with the President of South Africa.

Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement welcomed the clarification with relief.

But Palestinian activists are taking no chances and now applying greater pressure on the Government to implement the ANC’s Resolution taken at its 54th national conference in December last year to downgrade the embassy to a liaison office.

South Africa hurriedly withdrew its envoy from Israel due to Israel’s “violent aggression” in Gaza on May 14, where at least 55 people were killed by Israeli fire – the same day when Palestinians were peacefully protesting the US embassy move to Jerusalem that coincided with Israel’s Independence Day. 

The news that Ngombane had allegedly been sent to his post as Ambassador to Israel was immediately condemned by human rights group. 

Even more puzzling was that just days earlier, the newly elected President of COSATU, Zingiswa Losi, called for the downgrading of ties with Israel.

Losi also called on the South African government to do more to “push back against the corrupt advances” that Israel was making at the African Union (AU). Her remarks were a reference to Israel’s attempt at gaining observer status at the AU in an attempt to improve the Netanyahu regime’s relationship with African states with the ultimate aim of influencing their voting at the UN to block resolutions critical of Israel’s occupation.

 BDS said in a statement: “The delays are insulting and the good faith between civil society, the electorate and government is disintegrating,” adding that the call to downgrade the embassy was a collective one that included churches, civil society and political parties. 

When Former president Nelson Mandela’s grandson, and ANC MP, Chief Mandla Mandela first heard that Ngombane had returned to his post in Israel, he was flabbergasted.

He said: “It is with great shock and dismay that we learn of the surreptitious and “quiet” return of the South African Ambassador Sisa Ngombane to Israel. This comes after nearly 10 months of waiting for the South African government to implement the ANC’s 54th NGC resolution calling for the “immediate and unconditional “downgrade of the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv,”

“We believe that the return of the South African Ambassador is ill-considered and sends the wrong message to our people, especially at a time when the United Nations is honouring the life and legacy of President Nelson Mandela, we should be standing firmly by his position on Palestine. There can be no greater insult to the man who proclaimed for all the world to hear that “the Palestinian struggle is the greatest moral issue of our time.”

Palestinians and human rights activists have taken the Government’s word that Ngombane would return home. The question on their lips is “when?”

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