The South African National Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday in favour of a resolution calling for the downgrading of the South African Embassy in Israel, as it also urges the government to suspend bilateral relations with Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.
The motion, introduced by the left-wing opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters and supported by the ruling African National Congress, passed with 248 votes in favor and 91 against, marking a symbolic but significant stand against Israel’s aggression in Gaza.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose government will ultimately decide whether to implement the motion, has been vocal in condemning what he has described as Israel’s war crimes and genocide in the embattled Gaza Strip.
A few days earlier, following his country’s filing of a complaint against Israel before the ICC, President Cyril Ramaphosa justified his initiative by saying: “we believe that war crimes are being committed there.”
“And of course we do not condone the actions that were taken by Hamas earlier, but similarly, we condemn the actions that are currently underway and believe that they warrant an investigation by the ICC.”
Palestinian authorities currently report more than 14,100 casualties in Israel’s ongoing air and ground assault since October 7, further fueling international concern.
Israel recalled its ambassador, Eli Belotserkovsky, from Pretoria “for consultations” ahead of the parliamentary vote, underscoring the diplomatic tensions between the two nations.
While the motion’s implementation rests with the South African government, the symbolism of such a significant parliamentary decision cannot be understated.
In a broader diplomatic context, South Africa, as the host of a virtual summit for BRICS nations on Tuesday, took the opportunity to emphasize the urgent need for a “durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities” in Gaza.
President Ramaphosa, addressing the summit, accused Israel of war crimes and genocide, urging the BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—to unite in efforts to end the longstanding injustice in the region.
“As individual countries, we have demonstrated our grave concern at the death and destruction in Gaza,” President Ramaphosa declared on his social media X (former twitter).
“Let this meeting stand as a clarion call for us to combine our efforts and strengthen our actions to end this historical injustice.”