The South African government is looking at plans to step up its support for Palestine. The Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile, made the announcement during a press conference in Pretoria last week to announce that a Palestinian delegation, including Mr. Mashatile’s counterpart, Siham Barghouthi, had met with representatives of the government and signed a cultural agreement between South Africa and Palestine. Plans for future cooperation include literature exchanges, exhibitions, language development programmes and heritage preservation initiatives.
In addition to increased cooperation with Palestinians, the South African government is also considering increased sanctions against Israel. “We want to step up our support of the Palestinians and are investigating a number of peaceful ways to upgrade this support,” Mashatile told The New Age Newspaper last week. “We have no problem about supporting the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.”
This will come as no surprise to those who are familiar with South Africa’s ruling African National Congress’s long-held position over Palestine. The ANC has been a supporter of the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom and independence for many years, not least, according to Mr. Mashatile, “because we count the people of Palestine among those patriots who stood by us in our struggle for national liberation”. Furthermore, legendary ANC leader Nelson Mandela said in 1997, “Having achieved our freedom we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less human if we did so.”
The BDS movement succeeded in ridding South Africa of the minority Apartheid government; many prominent South Africans have therefore supported the BDS call against Israel, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former minister and freedom fighter Ronnie Kasrils.
The Palestinian delegation expressed their appreciation for South Africa’s support. “We are grateful for South Africa’s support for our efforts to become full members of the international community,” Siham Barghouthi told the press conference, “and we look to you for guidance in our ongoing struggle.”