South African opposition leader defies calls for boycott, visits Israel


South African opposition leader Mmusi Maimane. Credit: Democratic Alliance.

( South Africa’s opposition leader met Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, just days after South African President Jacob Zuma called on officials to refrain from visiting the Jewish state.

Mmusi Maimane, who heads South Africa’s Democratic Alliance party, visited Israel on what was described as a “mainly private and religious” trip, his spokesman, Mabine Seabe, told the South African daily newspaper The Citizen.

Maimane was in Israel to “listen and learn about the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict and the potential leadership role that South Africa could play,” Seabe said.

In addition to meeting Netanyahu, Maimane also met with Israeli opposition leader Member of Knesset Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union). Maimane was scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but that meeting was canceled and he instead met with other Palestinian officials.

“Fascinating to be in Israel and Palestine. ‘Two-state solution’ is still what we must pursue. Listening, learning,” Maimane said on Twitter during his visit.

Just days prior to Maimane’s visit, President Zuma—who heads the African National Congress (ANC) party, which has been highly critical of Israel and has supported efforts to boycott the Jewish state—discouraged South Africans from visiting Israel.

“The people of Palestine continue to suffer in their rightful quest for self-determination, and the ANC pledges its ongoing solidarity and support for their just cause,” Zuma said. “We reiterate that we firmly discourage travel to Israel for causes not related to fostering peace in the region.”

Posted on January 12, 2017 .