A Hamas delegation led by Mahmoud al-Zahhar (c) visiting the Robben Island prison cell of late former South African President Nelson Mandela. Photo: MEMRI.
South African leaders have rolled out the red carpet for an official Hamas delegation during the past week, with a private visit to the Robben Island prison cell of Nelson Mandela, the late former South African president, along with the formal signing of a “Memorandum of Understanding” between the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the Islamist organization.
Headed by veteran Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, the delegation of politicians from the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in Gaza included Nabil Abu-Ras, Muhammad Faraj al-Ghul, and Musheer al-Masri — all of them supporters of the Hamas-backed bloc in the Palestinian Parliament.
While on their visit, which commenced last Wednesday, the Hamas delegation was escorted to one of country’s most important centers for commemorating the Apartheid era: the prison cell on Robben Island where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison, and from where he became a global symbol of opposition to South Africa’s ruling white minority.
Standing inside Mandela’s cell, al-Zahar declared that he had “a message to every mujahid who wages jihad for the sake of his land and his country.”
Comparing Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails with Mandela, al-Zahar said that “Allah willing, you will get out of your prisons and rule the country, just like Mandela got out of prison and ruled this country,” according to a video of his remarks translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an independent think tank.
Although Mandela never made a secret of his sympathy with the Palestinian cause, he supported the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as a solution to the conflict. Nor is there any record of Mandela ever making the comparison between the Jewish state and the former Apartheid regime that prevails in pro-Palestinian circles.
South African Jews expressed dismay at the spectacle of a Hamas delegation visiting a national monument intended as a reminder of the struggle of South Africa’s black population against enforced racial segregation.
“Nelson Mandela’s vision of a free society was diametrically opposed to the theocratic, genocidal regime of Hamas,” one senior South African Jewish official told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.
“Using his memory to perpetuate their violent agenda spits on the memories of South Africans who died for freedom and democracy,” the official added.
The official also expressed concern that the Hamas delegation had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the ANC’s parliamentary caucus.
The memorandum was signed on Tuesday by al-Zahar and Jackson Mthembu on behalf of the ANC. According to one pro-ANC news outlet, the memorandum “seeks to introduce practical steps in mobilizing the international community to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestine, including working towards the full boycott of all Israeli products.”
The memorandum also promises that “the ANC Parliamentary Caucus will use the oversight powers of South Africa’s parliament to ensure that the ANC’s 2017 resolution to downgrade the South African embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office, is implemented by the South African government.”
Defying international efforts to restore control over Hamas-ruled Gaza to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, South Africa’s ruling ANC has dramatically stepped up its bilateral relations with the Islamist terrorist group since 2015. In December 2017, a Hamas delegation witnessed the ANC’s vote to downgrade South Africa’s diplomatic relations with Israel during a special conference convened by the ruling party.
The delegation to South Africa is part of a wider global tour by Hamas representatives to shore up political support in seven countries. Over the last week, Hamas delegations have visited the parliaments of Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, as well as South Africa.