The ICJ case exposes hypocrisy within political parties in SA

John Steenhuisen. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane Independent Newspapers

John Steenhuisen. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 26, 2024


The leader of South Africa’s main opposition, the DA, John Steenhuisen, who has been a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the massacre of Ukrainian civilians, has remained silent regarding the ongoing genocide in Gaza. In a similar disappointing fashion, ActionSA’ provincial chairperson Athol Trollip argued that South Africans should focus on their own problems and remain non-aligned on the issue of Israel-Palestine.

Steenhuisen spent six days in the war-torn country of Ukraine on a “fact-finding mission”. While there, he shared images from the war zone to rally support for Ukraine in May 2022. Steenhuisen defended his Ukraine trip by stating that he in no way favoured European lives over the lives of people of colour. However, when it comes to the issue of Palestine, Steenhuisen has remained hushed over the massacre of more than 30 000 people, the majority of whom are women and children.

Steenhuisen, who very generously provided interviews and comments to journalists following the State of the Nation Address (Sona), failed to demonstrate any degree of sympathy towards Palestinian civilians. “Your party, the DA has close ties with the Israeli government, why don't you go to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and ask him to stop the attacks on Palestinian civilians?” Steenhuisen was asked. To which he responded by saying: “We don’t run diplomatic channels. We are not the government, but we have used whatever platforms we have to call on both sides to come to the table to bring peace.”

Steenhuisen also expressed his dissatisfaction over President Cyril Ramaphosa’s remarks on South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) during his Sona speech. “I think that, you know, the president also finding refuge in international issues because it makes talking about domestic issues a lot easier.”

While criticising the ANC for focusing on international conflicts, Steenhuisen’s DA issued several statements on the Ukraine-Russia conflict, supporting Ukraine. The DA has called upon the ANC to support the UN resolution against Russia, condemning and imposing sanctions on Moscow as well as using its position in BRICS to convince Putin to de-escalate the rising tensions in Ukraine. The DA has repeatedly warned the ANC to not remain loyal to war-hungry allies, but the main opposition has remained silent on Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza.

ActionSA’s Eastern Cape provincial chairperson, Trollip, suggested that his party will not take any action or intervene in human rights violations occurring in Gaza. “They (Israel and Palestine) can’t sort out their issues in the Middle East. We’ve got too many issues in South Africa. We have to look after the South African challenges.”

The irony is that ActionSA criticised the South African government’s abstention in a UN General Assembly vote on a resolution denouncing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the party leader, Herman Mashaba, met with the Ukrainian ambassador to South Africa, Liubov Abravitova, to express his party’s clear stance on the matter.

The ANC’s ICJ case, which received a great deal of support from the Global South, Muslim-majority nations and right-wing activists from Western nations, has not been backed by the DA and ActionSA leaders. Both Steenhuisen and Trollip commented that their parties respect the outcome of the ICJ case, but failed to speak up against the mass destruction and killing in Gaza or to display the kind of support that they displayed for Ukraine against the Russian aggression.

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