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MANDELA VISIT: Palestinians and South Africans United in Struggle

MANDELA VISIT: Palestinians and South Africans United in Struggle






Yvonne Ridley 

NELSON Mandela’s grandson, Chief Mandla Mandela MP, arrived in Palestine on last Sunday morning for a historic visit to the nation his grandfather so admired.

During his time in Palestine it is expected he will hold several meetings with Palestinian leaders including one with the beleaguered, unpopular 83-year-old President Mahmoud Abbas. 

Chief Mandela also plans to visit the cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, which are both in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank.

The visit comes at a time when relations between South Africa and Israel are strained over talk of downgrading diplomatic relations between both countries. The Jewish community in South Africa  is lobbying very hard to prevent South Africa recalling its ambassador from Tel Aviv. If it happens Israel would then almost certainly retaliate by recalling its ambassador from Pretoria.

It is unlikely this issue will be officially discussed during the visit to Palestine where the most poignant part of the tour will come in Ramallah when Chief Mandla is expected to visit the mausoleum of Yasser Arafat of whom Nelson Mandela once said: “Our stand is that Arafat is a comrade in arms and we treat him as such."

Close by is a 6 metre high, bronze statue of Mandela who will forever be cherished by Palestinians for his words: “We know all too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” Mandela had a reputation of saying what he meant and meaning what he said. The statue now stands in its own Nelson Mandela Square in the upscale Al-Tireh neighbourhood.

Almost certainly groups of rich, corrupt Palestinians in Ramallah along with Abbas will seize the opportunity to have their photographs taken with Mandela's grandson in a bid to acquire badly needed political capital. Let's hope he is as astute as his grandfather and sees through these weak, power hungry men whose mandate with ordinary Palestinians has long-expired.

The unelected government of Abbas has yet to endorse the Palestinian civil society BDS movement which was inspired by and modelled on the South Africa boycott movement. Perhaps this most famous of grandsons will remind the Ramallah cabal of that during his three-day visit.

His grandfather was always a man of the people and he never forgot his struggle or that of other freedom fighters he identified with around the world. This visit by his grandson is not only a huge morale booster for ordinary Palestinians but since Chief Mandela, a senior Member of the South African Parliament, is also a strong supporters of the BDS campaign. His show of solidarity with BDS will no doubt lift those in the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement.

Parallels will inevitably be drawn between the Palestinian struggle against Israeli Apartheid and the South African struggle against the brutal apartheid movement there which was eventually crushed and destroyed.

Significantly, prior to his entry to Palestine, Chief Mandela had a meeting and received a briefing from Palestinian leader, Omar Barghouti who heads the Palestinian BDS National Committee.

After the historic meeting with Mandela, Barghouti commented that: "Chief Mandla Mandela is exceptionally inspiring, not only for carrying forward Madiba’s legacy of justice and internationalism, but also for seeing solidarity with the struggle for Palestinian liberation as a South African ethical obligation. Palestinians are proud of and deeply grateful for this solidarity from Madiba, Chief Mandla Mandela and from the great people of South Africa.”

During his meeting Barghouti reiterated Palestinian support for the shut down of the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Earlier this month political rival and EFF leader Julius Malema went one step further when he called for the closure of the Israeli embassy in South Africa as well as for South Africa to close its embassy in Israel in solidarity with Palestine.

At a picket outside the Israeli embassy in Pretoria last week, Malema called for support for the people of Palestine in their fight against "apartheid Israel", which, Malema said, was oppressing Palestine and depriving its people of their land. He said this was a struggle all too familiar in South Africa.

"The EFF is not an organisation for South Africans only, the EFF represents all those who reject imperialism and colonialism," said Malema 

 -Sister Yvonne Ridley is an author and journalist living in the UK. Her latest books is called TORTURE: Does it work? Interrogation issues and effectiveness in the Global War on Terror. You can order a copy here: 


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