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SA public service minister omits Israel in West Bank visit



Another South Africa government minister has just returned from visiting the Middle East without setting foot in Israel or engaging with Israelis in any way. This time, it was South Africa’s minister of public service and administration, Noxolo Kiviet, who made an official visit to the West Bank on 24 June. She also met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In January this year, Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) Director-General Zane Dangor made an official visit to “Palestine”, and Dirco Deputy Minister Candith Mashego-Dlamini visited the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria in August 2022, but left Israel off the itinerary.

“The closeness of the Palestinians and Dirco is more and more evident with this visit, which is no more than a publicity stunt. The minister didn’t meet Israeli officials to mediate any peace settlement further,” says Glen Segell, visiting professor and research fellow in the department of political studies and governance at the University of the Free State and research fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa.

Segell believes the government is following “an ANC [African National Congress] populist agenda that is anti-Zionist”.

“This has already had a backlash, given that it’s contradictory to the fundamentals and principles of the Abraham Accords, in which the Arab world is moving closer to Israel, while South Africa is widening the gap.”

He says the South African taxpayer would have funded Kiviet’s trip as an official diplomatic visit.

South Africa’s department of public service and administration (DPSA) is responsible for the organisation and administration of the public service. DPSA Communications Head Moses Mushi told the SA Jewish Report, “The minister didn’t interact with Israeli officials as the trip was a specific invitation by the Palestinians. The invitation came from her Palestinian counterpart, Minister Mousa Abu Zaid, who is chairperson of the General Personnel Council and head of the management board of the Palestinian National School of Administration (PNSA). The minister was also introduced to the eGovernment project implemented by the Palestinian Authority.

“This visit was funded by the department, and included a delegation from the South African National School of Government, as it was relevant to this trip. During her visit, she interacted with various government officials of her hosts, the state of Palestine, and academics.”

Kiviet attended the inauguration of the PNSA, where she interacted with Abbas. “[He] conveyed his sincere gratitude to the South African people and government for their steadfast support of the Palestinian cause,” according to a statement by the Embassy of the State of Palestine in South Africa.

The embassy said the visit was “a testament to the growing diplomatic ties between our two nations, and the shared commitment to fostering mutual understanding and co-operation. This visit also marks a significant milestone in strengthening collaboration between South Africa and Palestine, particularly between the South Africa National School of Government and the PNSA.” Kiviet also met the secretary general of Fatah movement, Major General Jibril Rajoub, in Ramallah.

Kiviet emphasised the need for “progress and peace”, and called for an end to the cycle of violence. At the same time, she compared Israel to apartheid, made no mention of any Jewish victims of terror, implied that the Jewish state was the sole source of conflict in the region, and didn’t engage with Israel in any way.

“In one of her official meetings with Dr Laila Ghannam, the governor of Al-Bireh municipality, Minister Kiviet was exposed to incidents of violence that resulted in the destruction of property, torching of vehicles, and the death of a young man who was defending the community property in the Turmus’ayya village,” said Mushi.

Turmus’ayya is a wealthy town that has been called the Palestinian “Beverly Hills”. It’s empty for most of the year until residents return in the summer. A local tourism website says the town “oozes class, due in part to the fact that many of its residents are relatively wealthy Palestinians who also hold American passports”.

“While visiting the family of Omar Jabara, a soccer star who was killed while trying to save a family from fire, the minister witnessed the harsh conditions they live under and noted that the situation undermines the two-state solution in which Palestinians and Jews can live side by side in peace,” said Mushi. At no point during her Middle East visit did Kiviet mention the four Jews who died just days before and a few kilometres away – Harel Masood (21); Elisha Anteman (17); Ofer Fayerman (64); and Shmuel Mordoff (17) – shot and killed by a Palestinian terrorist.

“The minister looks forward to training and knowledge exchanges between Palestine and South Africa as she leads efforts to professionalise the civil service in South Africa,” Mushi said.

Said Segell, “This visit is another example of the trend since the end of apartheid for the ANC to distance itself from any entity that once had good relations with it. It’s not an objective or prudent move, but populist, in which South Africa is ostracising itself from the international community, also shown by its close relations with Russia and China.”

Local political analyst Steven Gruzd says, “This trip shows that the government isn’t interested in speaking to Israeli officials. There’s still an unofficial ban on ministers traveling to Israel [proper]. It shows the partisanship that the ANC government has taken. It’s looking only at one side of the story, and not examining wrongs by the Palestinian side.”

Meanwhile, at home, Kiviet is fighting allegations that she holds two fraudulently acquired degrees from the University of Fort Hare. In May, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he would wait for the conclusion of a Special Investigating Unit probe into allegations of a degree-conferring scam. The Economic Freedom Fighters has called on all institutions of higher learning to blacklist her, and the United Democratic Movement wants her jailed.

The Democratic Alliance said it had no confidence that an alleged exposed fraudster could fulfil public service and administration responsibilities. “It’s yet another indictment on Ramaphosa that he hasn’t just appointed one of the biggest, most bloated, and most expensive cabinets on earth, but has packed his executive with incompetents and malcontents,” the party said.

Kiviet served as premier of the Eastern Cape from 2009 to 2014. She also served as speaker of the Eastern Cape legislature.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mark Wade

    July 6, 2023 at 3:34 pm

    Isn’t rather strange that during the 400 year occupation of Israel by the Ottoman Empire, the 30 year occupation by the British, and at the declaration of the Israeli State in 1948, there was never an Arab Palestinian claim to the land, yet, in 1964 they suddenly ‘appeared’, and declared Jews ‘occupiers’?

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