‘Vindicated’ Ramaphosa Defends South Africa’s Genocide Case Against Israel 

South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has defended Pretoria’s genocide case against Israel, saying his countrymen would “not be passive bystanders and watch” when a crime against humanity is being perpetrated elsewhere in the world. (Photo: GCIS)

South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has defended Pretoria’s genocide case against Israel, saying his countrymen would “not be passive bystanders and watch” when a crime against humanity is being perpetrated elsewhere in the world. 

In a show of power and assertiveness on the global stage, Ramaphosa hailed the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling against Tel Aviv as a victory for international law and justice.

He added that South Africa’s stance that Israel committed genocidal acts in Gaza had been vindicated. 

On Friday, January 26, the ICJ ordered Israel to take steps to stop and punish genocide, punish soldiers involved in genocidal acts, facilitate humanitarian aid, and submit monthly reports on measures taken. 

South Africa’s uncompromising pro-Palestinian stance has escalated tensions between Pretoria and Tel Aviv, as the two countries battle to navigate turbulent political waters over the Palestinian issue. South Africa is Palestine’s long-time ally.

Addressing the UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday, January 31, Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Brett Jonathan Miller, described South Africa’s ICJ case as a “vile attempt” to stop his country from defending itself against Hamas. 

He referred to South Africa and Iran as “Hamas’ defenders in Tehran and Pretoria”. South Africa’s UN Ambassador, Mathu Theda Joyini, rejected Miller’s accusations as baseless.  According to Gaza’s health ministry, more than 26 000 Palestinians have been killed and 66 000 wounded since Israel began its bombardment of the strip following the October 7 attacks by Hamas. 

In a televised speech after the ICJ ruling, an emboldened Ramaphosa welcomed the nearly unanimous judgement by the court’s 17 judges sitting in The Hague, the Netherlands.  He implored Israel and its backers to abide by the ruling.

“We expect Israel as a self-proclaimed democracy and a state that respects the rule of law to abide by the measures handed down by the International Court of Justice. After more than half a century of occupation, dispossession, oppression and apartheid, the Palestinian people’s cries for justice have been heeded by an eminent organ of the United Nations. Today, Israel stands before the international community, its crimes against the Palestinians laid bare. Since October last year, the people of Gaza have been the victims of bombardment and strikes from land and air. Homes, refugee camps, and entire neighbourhoods have been destroyed, and not even schools and hospitals have been spared,” said Ramaphosa. 

“The Court has concluded that, pursuant to Article 9 of the Convention, it has jurisdiction to adjudicate our application.   The effect of the order that the ICJ has granted today is that there is a plausible case of genocide. This marks an important first step in our quest to secure justice for the people of Gaza. Some have told us to mind our own business. Others have said it was not our place.   And yet it is very much our place, as people who know too well the pain of dispossession, discrimination, and state-sponsored violence.”  

Israeli ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan attends a United Nations Security Council meeting on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in New York City, New York, U.S., November 29, 2023. Israel has rejected South Africa’s genocide case as a “vile attempt” to stop it from defending itself. (Photo: CGTN)

Ramaphosa said that as a victim of the crime of apartheid, dispossession and discrimination itself, South Africa was duty-bound to defend Palestine with everything at its disposal. 

“We, as South Africans, will not be passive bystanders and watch the crimes that were visited upon us being perpetrated elsewhere. We stand on the side of freedom for all. We stand on the side of justice,” Ramaphosa said. “We will not waver in our commitment to the Palestinian people and their quest for self-determination. Our own painful history obliges us to do no less.” 

Ramaphosa reiterated South Africa’s stance that it doesn’t support the armed forces of Hamas, who attacked Israel on October 7, 2023, and killed more than 1 200 civilians and held 300 others hostage.

He said his country could not allow Israel to respond disproportionately in the name of self-defence. 

“We note the court’s statement that it is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the region, and is deeply concerned about the continuing loss of life and human suffering and that the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is at serious risk of deteriorating further before the court renders its final judgement. This Order is binding on Israel, and must be respected by all states that are party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

Ramaphosa’s political party, the African National Congress (ANC), also praised the ICJ’s judgement as a “significant victory for humanity and the Palestinian cause”. 

“We acknowledge the ICJ’s reliance on UN reports, showcasing moral leadership in support of Palestinian civilians. The provisional measures go beyond a ceasefire, demanding Israel prevent genocide, punish incitement, provide humanitarian aid, preserve evidence, and submit a report within a month. The ICJ’s verdict reinforces confidence in international law and the multilateral system.

The ANC calls for all parties to abide by the verdict, facilitating immediate humanitarian relief and the release of hostages and prisoners. Palestine must be free. Aluta Continua,” said ANC national spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri.

Independent political analyst Gakwi Mashego says the ICJ ruling against Israel has indirectly called for a ceasefire in the Middle East.

Independent political analyst Gakwi Mashego said the court has indirectly called for a ceasefire in the Middle East.

“The ruling is the best outcome that could have come out of the ICJ, which is a United Nations court. Most of the judges at the ICJ stem from political appointments. In this instance, Israel was allowed to bring its own judge, Aharon Barak, and South Africa brought Judge Dikgang Moseneke. This kind of judgement is legitimate, especially after the court saw it fit to say that South Africa has jurisdiction and that it has a prima facie case against Israel. This means Israel now stands accused of genocide, which means anyone doing business with Israel must know they are dealing with a genocide-accused country,” Mashego said.

“The court agreed to take the case on the proviso that there is evidence of genocidal acts. Some people would say South Africa wanted a ceasefire, but that would have been useless because Israel is not going to abide by a ceasefire. Israel is going to continue bombing the Palestinians. But when the ICJ rules that there should not be any killing of a member of a group, in part or in whole, it means if you continue bombing, they will be in contempt for the first provision that has been granted. This is a victory for the pro-Palestinian people and a victory for South Africa, even though the court did not impose a ceasefire but stopped them from harming people in Gaza, whether physically or mentally,” he added.



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