JOHANNESBURG, June 12 – Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has suspended Democratic Alliance counsellor Mpho Phalatse, a member of Johannesburg’s mayoral committee (MMC), after she expressed solidarity for Israel on behalf of the city without consulting or approval from the party, federal leader of the DA’s student organisation Yusuf Cassim told the African News Agency on Tuesday.
“I would like to declare that I am a friend of Israel, and the city of Johannesburg is a friend of Israel! Shalom Shalom!,” Phalatse wrote on Twitter on Monday.
A war of words quickly erupted on the social media site as DA supporters expressed their outrage while one pro-Israel user threatened to help break the DA up.
“Your DA is falling apart at the seams … we have friends who are inside your party and cannot wait to find a way to destroy your hate filled party..coming soon,” tweeted NO2BDS.ORG.
The national ruling party, the African National Congress, condemned Phalatse’s comments.
“We strongly condemn this behaviour by the MMC and distance ourselves unequivocally,” it said.
“As the ANC in Johannesburg, we reiterate our solidarity with the heroic people of Palestine. We condemn Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the systematic oppression meted out to the Palestinian people for decades.”
The city of Johannesburg, which is run by the Democratic Alliance, has a twinning relationship with the city of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which is the defacto headquarters of the Palestinian Authority.
The Economic Freedom Fighters party also said it was deeply disturbed by Phalatse’s comments.
Her DA colleagues also condemned Phalatse.
“I am going to lay charges. DA provincial leader John Moodey is going to lay charges,” Cassim told ANA.
“If members believe a party member has exceeded their mandate they have the right to lay charges. It’s a fair process for everyone.”
Phalatse’s comments come amid Israel’s fight against the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign which seeks to sanction the country over its treatment of Palestinians and what the movement calls Israel’s apartheid policies.
Israel believes South Africa is a pivotal player in strengthening BDS due to strong sympathy from its citizens for Palestinians they say are suffering in the same way as non-white South Africans during apartheid.
Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs recently sponsored a pro-Israel campaign in South Africa after its strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan accused South Africa of supporting “terrorists”.
The strategic affairs ministry, together with Maccabi World Union, the Zionist Federation of South Africa and the local Jewish community embarked on a pro-Israel propaganda campaign from June 3 to 10 which brought together over 1,000 pro-Israel Jewish and Christian supporters.
Phalatse’s pro-Israel stance was reportedly partly a result of this publicity.
The governing ANC has slammed what it calls Israel’s interference in South African politics.
– African News Agency (ANA)