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South Africans took inspiration from Palestinians during apartheid: Mandela’s kin

By Julia Kassem

The people of South Africa during the years of apartheid took inspiration from the heroic resistance of Palestinians in their struggle for the liberation of Israeli-occupied territories, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, the grandson of South Africa’s legendary anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, told the Press TV website.

In an exclusive interview during his US tour organized by the US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) to mark the 75th anniversary of the Day of Nakba, the junior Mandela said Palestinians “stood side-by-side” with South Africans during the “darkest days of apartheid”.

“As my grandfather used to say, during our darkest days of the (anti-apartheid) struggle, they (Palestinians) supported us and stood side-by-side with us,” the South African MP said, recalling Mandela saying they were “inspired by the heroic bravery of Palestinians” while fighting apartheid.

Mandela is the tribal chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council and a member of South Africa’s Parliament, representing the African National Congress (ANC).

“Here in South Africa, apartheid emerged in 1948 with the rise of the National Party. At the very same time, [the] Israeli regime emerged in 1948 through the catastrophe known as the Nakba,” he stated.

May 15 marked the 75th anniversary of the Day of Nakba when tens of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes, villages were depopulated, and thousands were killed in order to pave the way for the Zionist apartheid regime of Israel.

South Africa also saw the apartheid that lasted 46 years between 1948 and 1994 was marked by racial segregation of people under the all-white government that Mandela fiercely resisted.

On April 27, 1994, the country’s apartheid era ended and South Africans finally were allowed to cast their vote in the first free and democratic elections after years of heroic struggle.

Parallel struggles

The struggle of Palestinians ran parallel with the struggle of Palestinians as both fought the apartheid in different forms and shapes.

“This is why when my grandfather was released from prison in 1990, he visited Gaza in 1995 and said to the Palestinian people that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,” the junior Mandela told the Press TV website.

“The solidarity and connectivity that we experience as South Africans, having experienced the brutality of an apartheid regime, we can easily relate with our Palestinian brothers and sisters.”

Mandela said he visited Palestine in 2017, recalling what he witnessed as “horrible”.

“What we saw in Palestine was the worst form of apartheid that can be experienced. The forced removal (of people) from their homes, illegal settlements in Silwan, in Hebron, in South Jerusalem, a clear example of violations of international law,” he told the Press TV website.

Palestinians, Mandela said, continue to face atrocities against them on a daily basis - most of them killed by the apartheid regime, including women and children.

“All those feminists and women’s rights groups look away when it is about Palestinian women and we as South Africans can no longer tolerate this and this is why we are exerting pressure on international institutions to take a stand and speak out against this ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinians.”

Palestine solidarity tour

Mandela, an outspoken critic of the Israeli regime, has been traveling across the US in recent days speaking about the Israeli apartheid and mobilizing support for Palestinians.

He has his fellow pro-Palestine activists in African countries have been pushing for the Pan-African parliament to ensure the Palestinian issue is “high on the agenda”.

“We can easily relate to the Palestinian struggle because many of us (in South Africa) had to endure 350 years of colonialism, coupled with 50 years of a brutal apartheid regime,” the South African MP stated.

He, however, hastened to warn about the Israeli lobby infiltrating African states, bringing “military programs and water desalination techniques” to woo African leaders.

“We have had a pushback campaign to ensure that we have support from the African continent. But also if you have been observing what has been happening in the Arab League of Nations, and also in the Arab world, the tide is turning in favor of Palestinians after recent attacks and brutality (by Israel).”

Mandela also referred to the recent normalization between Iran and Saudi Arabia after years of tension and hostility and said it had rekindled hope of dialogue in support of the Palestinians.

“We call on all Palestinians, those fighting inside and those across civil society and party lines, to build unity, and have a program to protest, to render the Israeli regime ungovernable from within,” he said, in a powerful message for the Palestinian resistance movements.

“We also want to say that freedom for Palestine won’t come just from internal resistance, we call on Palestinians in the diaspora as well.  There are almost 7 million Palestinians across the globe - they must become effective ambassadors in their own struggle…and be the voices of the Palestinians leading the internal resistance. In doing so, we will be able to effectively mobilize the numbers that we require.”

Ending hypocrisy on Israeli apartheid

He also spoke about “attempts to intensify the infiltration” of pro-Palestine movements in South Africa, including the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling political party of South Africa which has extended its full support for Palestine against the apartheid Israel.

“We can no longer tolerate governments that on one hand pledge full support to the Palestinian people and on the other side give free visas to Zionists coming from apartheid Israel to South Africa. Yet our brothers and comrades in Palestine are subjected to visas in South Africa. These are the double standards that we call out our government on” he said.

“If we are sincere to our comrades and brothers and sisters in arms in Palestine, we should cut off all ties with apartheid Israel. And this is our call as activists on the ground. We can be proud members of the ANC, but we must call them out on the wrong that we see.”

On the future he sees in South Africa of resisting Zionism in all its forms, Mandela said his party as well as the government has got a “listening ear” to people and their issues and sentiments.

“All across the African continent, we need firm commitments, not just to say that we support Palestine in words but also in action,” he remarked.

“This is what the Palestinians are looking for, this is what the Palestinians are asking for from us – to give them the necessary support to attain freedom in our lifetime.”

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