MPs wear chequered scarves for Palestine

2014-07-23 18:41
(Dan Calderwood, News24)

(Dan Calderwood, News24)

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Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma repeated the call on Wednesday for a ceasefire in Gaza, as Cabinet members wore chequered scarves in apparent solidarity with the people of Palestine.

"South Africa joins the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in calling for an immediate ceasefire by all sides, and a resumption of the flow of humanitarian aid to the suffering people of Gaza," he told MPs.

Opening debate in Parliament on the presidency's R1.2bn budget, he said South Africa, like all peace-loving nations, was shocked and dismayed by the violence and loss of life in Gaza.

"We call on the Israeli government to stop its air and ground offensive, which continues to cause loss of life and a devastating humanitarian crisis.

"We also call for an end to the firing of rockets on Israel's citizens by Hamas."

According to reports on Wednesday, at least 649 Palestinians and 31 Israelis have been killed in the past 15 days of fighting.

The UN says 74% of those killed in Gaza are civilians. Ban Ki-moon is in the region trying to bring an end to the fighting.

Several Cabinet members in the House wore black and white chequered scarves draped over their dress suits in apparent solidarity with the people of Palestine.

They included Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramathlodi, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

In the opposition benches, the sole similarly scarfed MP was Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, who, in unlikely fashion, thanked ruling party members "for coming out openly today in support of the Palestinian struggle".

Speaking during the debate, Malema called on them to put pressure on Zuma to order the expulsion of Israel's ambassador.

Calling on Egypt

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane also called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

"I want to join all the honourable members in calling for an immediate end to the violence in Gaza."

The death of an ever-growing number of civilians, especially women, children and the elderly, had to stop.

"In fact, we are concerned that what is happening in Gaza today cannot be considered by any reasonable person to be a commensurate response, and we hope that the parties to the conflict will heed a unanimous international call for a humanitarian ceasefire," he said.

Zuma said a military solution to the Middle East conflict was impossible.

"There will never be a military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The only solution lies in serious and genuine negotiations involving all parties."

He called on Egypt to help Palestine.

"We appeal to the Egyptian authorities to open their door to the injured and affected people of Gaza."

With supplies running out in Gaza, their only lifeline was Egypt.

Zuma said the world's focus should be on the humanitarian crisis.

"This is not the time to apportion blame, but to focus on the needy and dying, especially defenceless women and children."

He said South Africa would work with its Brics partners to develop a common position on the crisis.

Earlier this week, it was announced that Zuma was to dispatch former deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad to Israel and Palestine to convey South Africa’s growing concern over the conflict and levels of violence.

It was announced that South Africa would provide R10.5m of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

Read more on:    da  |  eff  |  mmusi maimane  |  jacob zuma  |  julius malema  |  cape town  |  parliament 2014  |  gaza conflict

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