Some 800 supporters of the African Christian Democratic Party and Inkatha Freedom party, staged a pro-Israel rally in front of the South African parliament building in Cape Town on Friday, after hundreds of protesters attended a similar demonstration the previous day in the country’s capital of Pretoria.
The two rallies were in response to a recent mandate by South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry, that products produced by Israeli companies in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories cannot be labeled as products of Israel.
Last month, Minister Rob Davies issued an announcement warning merchants “not to incorrectly label products that originate from the OPT as products of Israel.” Minister Davies argued that consumers must be informed of a product’s origin, as is common practice in other parts of the world, including the European Union. He granted the public 60 days to submit written opposition to the proposal. The government is to decide on the bill once the consultation period runs out on July 10.
On Thursday, when the South African supporters of Israel marched in Pretoria, the Israeli Ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg met with representatives of the South African Foreign Ministry. The Israeli Ambassador submitted Israel’s official response to the bill, claiming that it compromises bilateral ties between South Africa and Israel.
The protesters in Pretoria, led by the African Christian Democratic Party, marched on the Trade and Industry Ministry to hand over a petition that counters the proposal. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies has submitted its own statement of opposition on Wednesday.
The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) was founded in 1993 and consists mainly of conservative Christians that concentrate mostly on issues such as abortion, homosexuality and pornography. The ACDP was the only party to vote against the adoption of the final version of the South African Constitution, for reasons that it enshrined abortion on demand and the specific protection of sexual orientation. The party also opposed the promotion of condoms and safe sex as a way of preventing HIV transmission claiming, “The ACDP feels strongly that the condom campaign must be abandoned and that abstinence and faithfulness in marriage must be promoted.”
The party is also opposed to maintaining the current age of consent, and implies that the reason it has not been raised is because so-called “aggressive homosexual activists” would be prevented from sleeping with young boys.
The Inkatha Freedom party leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, attended Thursday’s rally and said that the legislation goes against both Israel’s and South Africa’s interests.
Chief Buthelezi was an icon of South African apartheid. In 1970, Buthelezi was appointed leader of the KwaZulu Territorial Authority and in 1976 became chief minister of the KwaZulu Bantustan. In the final stages of the apartheid regime, he led a civil war against ANC members and collaborated with the South African army, receiving military training. His militias were involved in several massacres in the run-up to South Africa’s first democratic elections, including the Trust Feed massacre on December 3, 1988 and the Boipatong massacre on June 17, 1992.
In the early 1980’s the then Israeli minister of Defense, Ariel Sharon, attempted to emulate the South African experience by creating the Villagers Leagues with Palestinian collaborators. However, the Leagues were defeated by the PLO before the emergence of the First Intifada in 1987.
Alan Fischer, a representative of Jewish groups in South Africa, said that the wide array of protesters that attended the rallies in Pretoria and Cape Town indicate that Israel has many supporters in the country.
* This article was published by The Alternative Information Center (AIC)