Review of visas for Israelis to be raised at Cabinet

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says he will take proposals to impose more stringent visa requirements on Israelis traveling to South Africa, to Cabinet, for consideration.

This follows a brief meeting with Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (BDS) at his Parliamentary office in Cape Town on Tuesday.

On Monday, 58 Palestinians were shot dead, and many more were injured, by Israeli snipers in Gaza. The Palestinian demonstrators were raising their disapproval of the US’s decision to move its embassy office from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The massacre has led to widespread condemnations and South Africa recalling its ambassador from Israel just hours after the killings.

In a joint media briefing with BDS representatives after the meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the Minster said he will take the concerns raised to Cabinet.

“Obviously, one would need to consult with Cabinet colleagues to ensure that whatever response we give is a well-considered collective response of Cabinet that will ensure that the South African response is not weakened with it being associated with individual actions or responses but it is viewed collectively as a Cabinet response.

“We will take forward the issues that are raised in relation to a possible review, either all together or to some limited extent, the visa requirements in relation to the state of Israel and also the issue of people holding dual citizenship who fight in wars that South Africa has regarded as unjust,” the Minister said.

While South Africans, under current laws that were enacted during apartheid, need to apply for a visa when travelling to Israel, Israeli visitors can come into South Africa without a visa.

Braam Hanekom, a Board Member of BDS, said recent developments have led them to believe that the South African government was taking the plight of the people of Palestine more seriously.

He said what happened on Monday had sent shockwaves throughout the world and called on government to take firm, solid and unapologetic action to hold the apartheid Israeli government accountable for its actions.

“The murder of over 50 people [on Monday], including many children, the cold-blooded massacre of these people using snipers and very sophisticated weaponry, alarmed us all.

“It pushed us … into action and we are more inspired and feeling pressured to ensure that we put whatever effort we can in holding the government of Israel to account.”

He said, about his meeting with the Minister, he had raised the issue of the ease at which Israeli citizens appear to be coming to South Africa with very limited to no visa requirements.

“We request the Minister to look into that and see if there is any way that the Minister could make more stringent the visa requirements for Israeli citizens to come to South Africa.

“We also raised the fact that there are many people who maintain their South African citizenship while going to Israel as dual citizens and fighting and serving in the Israeli army, murdering and killing people, in what we believe was a mass murder, what we believe is a violation of human rights,” he said.

Muhammed Desai, BDS’ national coordinator, welcomed the engagement with the Minister, saying it was a reflection of an engaging government.

“There is an interaction, a fruitful interaction between society on the one hand and our own state on the other hand. There is a sense that civil society is being heard and that action is being taken by the South African government and we would like to put it on record that we are grateful for [it].”

He said he would like Minister Gigaba to raise their issues at the Cabinet meeting “to ensure that what we have put on the table will be realised soon” . –