Howard Feldman

Guess who SA invited to dinner...

2018-06-20 11:57
Minister of International Relations Lindiwe Sisulu. (File photo: GCIS)

Minister of International Relations Lindiwe Sisulu. (File photo: GCIS)

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Iranian news reports seem genuinely thrilled about the meetings that took place in South Africa over the past weeks.

Photos of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shaking hands with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and another with International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu graced the pages of Mehr News, a Tehran based publication owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organisation (IIDO).

The publication reported that the meeting’s participants would be turning politics into action, which sounds positive, and most likely would be, if Iran was not a genocidal regime that funds terror throughout the world.

It would also be positive if Iran had not eliminated all forms of freedom of expression, including the banning of Twitter in the country and arresting anyone who speaks out against the regime.

It would be fantastic if Iran were not one of the world's worst abusers of human rights and a country that forces women to cover themselves or face severe punishment. Women are not allowed access to sports stadiums and removing a hijab publicly could result in you disappearing.

Gay people are routinely hanged from cranes and live in constant fear of being exposed. Being found out means death. Not something that South Africans aspire to as a rule.

In short, there is no freedom of expression, no freedom of association, no freedom of religion and no objective rule of law.

These are the very basic and fundamental rights that South Africans fought so hard to attain. Yet, this is the country South Africa welcomes, meets and courts. 

Iran is a country that has made its intention to acquire nuclear weapons clear. Love or hate Donald Trump, no one in the western world (or in the Middle East) doubts this intention and if there is one thing that everyone agrees on, it is that Iran’s nuclear program needs to be stopped. They are recognised in the Middle East as being the most significant destabiliser and the largest threat to the region.

Despite the nuclear deal, Iran continued to build long range missiles (non-nuclear) with the clear and stated intention of using them against their neighbours, including, but not limited to Israel. It funds Hezbollah (the terror organisation) and has all but taken over Lebanon’s parliament. Iran has built military bases in Syria and only with Russia now intervening (after pressure from Israel) has it agreed to have the bases confined to the north of the country.

Iran’s relationship with Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan is well known and only adds to the danger it presents to those who resist. Iran’s goal is clearly to dominate the region and spread its particular form of hate.

All of this makes the South African open arm policy perplexing.

Iran continues to fund terror organisation Hamas and is allegedly behind the so-called #GreatReturnMarch that saw nearly 50 000 people massed against the Israeli border. The operation was, from Iran’s perspective hugely rewarding with Israel being condemned by the world while civilians fought their battle.

Iran has never recognised Israel’s right to exist, and repeatedly states its intention to wipe the country off the map.

This is the country that the South African government has welcomed. This is the leadership that the South African government poses for photos with, shakes hands with and sides with.

All while it recalls its ambassador from Israel, repeats emotive and inaccurate statements about Israel and debates an embassy downgrade.

Something is very wrong. It is perplexing and disturbing, and it seems to make no sense.

Pretty much like South Africa’s foreign policy in general.

The danger that South Africa might make fools of itself on a global stage has long past. When the government demanded in 2018 that Israel withdraw from Gaza (which it had done in 2005) it sealed its reputation. That it continuously sides with the despots and dictatorships at the United Nations simply reinforces the notion that is either horribly ill-informed, or fatally attracted to the global “bad boys”.

Long past are the days when South Africans could feel pride in the country’s foreign policy. Voters might have become used to this under a Zuma presidency, especially when the Dalai Lama was denied a visa, but we naively hoped that it had changed.

The fact that terrorist Laila Khalid and Hamas were invited to the country and treated as though they brought light and love into the world might have made sense under a Zuma government, but with the change of the guard, most hoped for better.

What this means is that South Africans need to accept that once again they cannot trust South Africa's leadership. It means that South Africans cannot rely on the government to choose the path of morality and to select right from wrong.

It means that once again South Africans need to be vigilant and keep an eye on who is being invited to dinner and be very mindful and sceptical as to what conditions their guests bring to the table.

- Feldman is the author of Carry on Baggage and Tightrope and the afternoon drive show presenter on Chai FM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    lindiwe sisulu  |  cyril rama­phosa  |  iran  |  israel  |  foreign policy
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