South Africa demands immediate ceasefire and humanitarian aid in Gaza 

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi has reiterated South Africa’s unequivocal call for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian aid in Gaza, calling upon the international community to act swiftly to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.

Nxesi was delivering a country statement on Wednesday at the 350th Session of the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) concerning the urgent crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly the Gaza Strip.

The Minister expressed deep concern over the dire situation, highlighting the significant impact of the Israeli military operation on the economy and welfare of the people in Gaza.

“The Republic of South Africa concurs with the Director-General’s report that the people of Palestine continue to suffer at the hands of the Israeli military, with their fundamental human rights, including labour rights, trampled upon and their very existence threatened.
“There is an [urgent] need for basic services and humanitarian assistance to address famine and starvation, and the dire conditions of life faced by Palestinians in Gaza,” the Minister said.

The Minister also urged ILO Member States, who have announced that they will defund humanitarian work by some UN agencies in Gaza, to reconsider their decision.
The alarming statistics from the ILO Director-General’s report revealed that over two-thirds of jobs in Gaza have vanished, equivalent to 192 000 jobs, and that the fundamental human rights, including labour rights, of Palestinians are being trampled upon.

Nxesi underscored South Africa’s concern regarding Israel’s excessive use of force in the Occupied Palestine Territory, which potentially violates international labour conventions.

Consequently, he condemned Israel’s actions for their detrimental effects on the livelihoods, economy, workers and businesses in Gaza. He drew attention to the alarming unemployment rates and the displacement of Palestinian workers.

Nxesi also raised concerns about the complicity of certain ILO Member States and entities in perpetuating injustice in Gaza through their actions and support.
He called for a re-evaluation of the bilateral labour agreements that Israel had signed with some governments. He further urged decisive action to hold Israel accountable for its violations of labour conventions and international law.  

“We are concerned that Israel’s bilateral labour agreements with fellow ILO Member States will displace and replace Palestinian workers.  The DG’s report points to a mere 10 000 of the 171 000 workers from the West Bank, formerly employed in Israel and the settlements, currently are able to work there.

“We appeal to the ILO and the affected Member States to review these bilateral labour agreements, which go against the principles and conventions that underpin this organisation.

“We believe we have sufficient grounds to initiate action against Israel under Article 26 of the ILO Constitution and other international human rights treaties,” the Minister said. 

South Africa further urged the Workers’ Group and Employers’ Group to break their silence and actively address the plight of Palestinian workers and businesses. Nxesi stressed the critical role of tripartism in advocating for social justice for the most vulnerable.

“We believe in the critical role of tripartism in upholding decent work principles and advocating for social justice, and we appeal to the Workers’ Group and Employers’ Group to call on Israel to implement the provisional measures ordered by the principal legal organ of the United Nations,” Nxesi said. 

The Minister reminded the international community of the recent interim measures issued by the International Court of Justice, directing Israel to prevent acts of genocide, ensure humanitarian aid reaches Gaza promptly, and submit a compliance report.
He expressed dismay at Israel’s disregard for the ruling and urged the international community to add its voice to condemn Israel’s flagrant disregard for international law. –