Former South African anti-apartheid stalwarts and ex-political prisoners on Monday expressed solidarity with Palestinians currently on hunger strike protesting Israeli detention policies.
"We unequivocally support the demands of Palestinian political prisoners and strongly condemn the illegal detention of women [and] children," Mpho Masemola, leader of South Africa's Ex-Political Prisoners' Association, told reporters in Johannesburg.
He appealed for global solidarity marches which would put pressure on Israel to stop mass arrests and the abuse of prisoners.
More than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners started an open-ended hunger strike last Monday to demand the resumption of prison visits by family members, better medical care and improved treatment of female inmates.
Long-term Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouthi who has been in prison for more than a decade, has spearheaded the hunger strike.
He wrote in The New York Times last Monday: "I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel's illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners."
He said after exhausting all other options, he decided there was no choice but to resist the abuses by going on a hunger strike.
South African anti-apartheid stalwart Denis Goldberg, who faced imprisonment along with other key members of the anti-apartheid movement, also condemned Israel's policies.
"I call upon Jewish Israelis to support the call for justice for the Palestinian people," he wrote in a solidarity message read for him at Monday's news briefing.
Neeshan Bolton, executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation — which campaigns for a "non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa" — said the group would protest outside provincial legislatures throughout the country to create awareness about Palestinian prisoners.
Bolton also said they would protest outside the Israeli embassy.
"We call on the South African government and the African Union to increase pressure on Israel so they can stop arbitrary arrests and the abuse of prisoners'' said Hassona Aldramly, an official of the Palestinian Embassy in Pretoria.