South African Deputy President, dozens of officials and anti-apartheid veterans join solidarity strike for Palestinian prisoners

Dozens of prominent South African figures, including a number of government ministers and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, will participate in a 24-hour fast and day of action for hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners that begins on Sunday evening, 14 May. The solidarity strike has been organized by a broad coalition of organizations, including the National Coalition for Palestine and BDS South Africa, to support the 1500 Palestinian political prisoners who launched a hunger strike on 17 April, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.

Participants in the strike will begin fasting at 6:00 pm on 14 May and will only drink salt and water until 6:00 pm on 15 May. As the campaigners noted, “May 15 was symbolically selected for the #DignityStrikeSA campaign to mark the Nakba (Catastrophe) that saw Palestinians being forced to flee their homeland in 1948, and the establishment of Israeli occupation.”

Some of Ramaphosa’s fellow government officials participating in the strike include Dr Aaron Motsoaledi (Minister of Health), Ayanda Dlodlo (Minister of Communications), Naledi Pandor (Minister of Science & Technology), Rob Davies (Minister of Trade & Industry), Ebrahim Patel (Minister for Economic Development), Mmamoloko Kubayi (Minister of Energy), Nomaindia Mfeketo (Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation), Buti Manamela (Deputy Minister in the Presidency), Enver Surty (Deputy Minister of Basic Education), Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams (Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services), Fatima Chohan (Deputy Minister of Home Affairs), John Jeffery (Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development) and Bongani Mkgoni (Deputy Minister of Police), noted the organizers.

Palestinian prisoners are demanding basic human rights in the ongoing hunger strike: the right to receive family visits, the right to pursue distance higher education, proper health care and medical treatment and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial. They have been met with harsh repression, including repeated abusive transfers, confiscation of salt – on which prisoners are dependent to preserve their health – denial of legal and family visits, isolation and solitary confinement of leaders and repeated raids by repressive units inside the prisons.

Multiple former South African political prisoners and anti-apartheid veterans are also joining in the one-day strike, including Ebrahim Ebrahim, a 79-year-old former Robben Island prisoner, Laloo Chiba, an 86-year-old former prisoner, Kehla Subane, a fellow former Robben Island prisoner, Bongani Mbindwane and Trish Hanekom, former anti-apartheid detainees, and Mpho Masemola, Chairperson of the Ex Political Prisoners Association of South Africa, who was denied entry to Palestine by the Israeli occupation earlier this year as he sought to attend a conference on political prisoners.

Well known personalities, liberation icons, activists and political leaders who have also pledged to participate include: Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (Former African Union Chairperson), Gwede Mantashe (ANC Secretary General), Jessie Duarte (ANC Deputy Secretary-General), Faiez Jacobs (ANC Provincial Secretary), Derek Hanekom (Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Chairperson), Sidumo Dlamini (President of the Congress of South African Trade Unions), Mluleki Dlelanga (YCL National Secretary), Khulekani Skosana (Secretary-General of the Congress of South African Students), Sifiso Mtsweni (NYDA Chairperson), Reverend Edwin Arrison (Chairperson of the National Coalition 4 Palestine), Frans Baleni (Deputy Chair of the Development Bank of Southern Africa and former NUM GS), Allan Kolski Horwitz (SA Jews for a Free Palestine), Charles Setsubi (SACP CC member) and Parks Tau (President of the United Cities and Local Government, Chairperson of SA Local Government Association and former Mayor of Johannesburg). They will be joined by South African media celebrities, including radio and television presenters such as Eben Jansen, Hajra Omarjee, Nina Hastie, Kuli Roberts, Shaka Sisulu and media personalities Kay Sexwale, Janet Smith, Jimi Matthews and Yusuf Abramjee.

The demands of the South African solidarity actions include:

a) Israel’s release of all #PalestinianPoliticalPrisoners and an end to its use of “administrative detention” (Apartheid SA’s “detention without trial”).
b) A South African government led solidarity delegation to #PalestinianPoliticalPrisoners.
c) The South African government to support the demands outlined by the Palestinian political prisoners (click here).
d) The South African government to commit to not using any international companies involved in the Israeli prison system as outlined by the BDS Movement such as G4S, HP etc.
e) The South African Parliament and all 9 provincial legislatures to have special sittings in solidarity with the plight of Palestinian political prisoners.

South Africans can register to participate in the strike by emailing “We have been receiving tremendous support from a range of individuals, as can be seen from the growing list of ministers, deputy ministers and others. We’re encouraging ordinary South Africans to also make their pledges of support public by emailing us their names and bios, and sharing photos of themselves on social media with the words” ‘I support #DignityStrikeSA,’” said Kwara Kekana of BDS South Africa.

A wide range of South African organizations, including the following, have endorsed the growing campaign in South Africa to support the Palestinian political prisoners. The day of action on 15 May will also include pickets, protests and other street actions in solidarity.  A full list of endorsers is available online.

African National Congress (ANC)
Ahmed Kathrada Foundation
Al Jama-ah Political Party
Al Quds Foundation
Amnesty International (Wits)
BDS South Africa
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)
Equal Education (EE)
Embassy of the State of Palestine
Ex Political Prisoners Association of South Africa
Gandhi Remembrance Organisation
Institute of Palestine South Africa
Jewish Voices for a Just Peace
Kairos Palestine Study Group – South Africa
KZN Palestine Solidarity Forum
MSA (University of Pretoria)
Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa
National Coalition 4 Palestine (which includes more than 40 organizations, trade unions and political parties)
Palestine Museum (South Africa)
Palestine Solidarity Alliance
Palestine Solidarity Alliance Youth League
Palestine Solidarity Campaign Cape Town
Palestine Solidarity Committee
PMB4Palestine Action Group
South African Human Rights Commission
South African Jews for a Free Palestine
South African Municipal Workers Union
South African Prison Organization
#TheWorkZone Radio Talkshow
UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum
UKZN Theology and Development
United Democratic Movement
UP Palestine Solidarity Committee
Wits PSC