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South Africa’s anti-Israel ANC loses majority in historic vote

The party might align with opposition Democratic Alliance, which could moderate its hostile stance on the Jewish state.

A campaign rally in Johannesburg, May 02, 2019. Credit: VladanRadulovicjhb/Shutterstock.
A campaign rally in Johannesburg, May 02, 2019. Credit: VladanRadulovicjhb/Shutterstock.

South Africans went to the polls last week, and the African National Congress lost its majority for the first time since the first vote was held under universal suffrage in 1994.

Israel is keeping a watchful eye on developments in South Africa following the country’s increasingly hostile stance against the Jewish state.

The ANC went down from 230 parliamentary seats to 159. The National Assembly has 400 members.

The ANC now has to make a deal with one or more other parties to govern. This is the first time since the country became a democracy that the government will consist of a coalition.

Still, the ANC won the most votes and will need to decide with which party it will form a government. Will it align with the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which could moderate the hardline foreign policy on Israel, or the Economic Freedom Front (EFF), which is viewed as extreme on a variety of issues including Israel?

EFF leader Julius Malema, addressing a rally, promised to arm Hamas should he be in a position to do so.

Since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas following the Oct. 7 atrocities, Pretoria has been an extremely critical voice and is viewed by the Israeli government as “the legal arm of Hamas” for taking the Jewish state to the International Court of Justice on charges of genocide.

The Jewish community

South Africa’s Jewish community has felt increasingly vulnerable and marginalized by the ANC-led government.

It would appear that the ideologically based campaign run by the ANC and far-left parties did not appeal to the South African electorate, which has grown disillusioned over corruption, lack of services, high unemployment and rampaging violent crime.

ANC Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said on Sunday that there was nothing to celebrate after the party lost its controlling majority, even though it won the most votes in Wednesday’s general election.

“The results showed a significant decline in ANC support from previous elections,” Mbalula told a press conference, adding that the party would hold discussions with other parties in the coming days.

Howard Sackstein, chairman of the South African Jewish Report and chief of staff of one of South Africa’s senior politicians, told JNS on Sunday, “The ANC having suffered a crushing blow dropping by more than 17% and losing its majority in parliament is faced with a crossroads deciding the future of South Africa. It can either form a coalition and or agreement with the centrist DA or it could move to the radical left and align itself with the EFF and MK parties.

“In all likelihood, the ANC for the sake of the country and stability of the economy would enter into a confidence and support agreement with the DA, which would keep the DA in opposition but in control of parliament and the parliamentary committees, and the ANC in control of government.

“Of course, there would be a price the ANC would have to pay for such a deal. There would no doubt have to be a moderation of the ANC’s position towards Israel, given the close and historical relation between the DA and the Jewish community,” Sackstein said.

Pretoria’s anti-Israel stance has also created tension with the United States. In recent weeks, members of Congress have asked for bilateral ties between the two countries to be “re-examined” and more than 160 lawyers have written to the State Department and Congress calling for an investigation into South Africa allegedly receiving funds from Iran to fund the case against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

Speaking at a mosque in Cape Town on May 28, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor said, “America Is next. Countries and officials that fund Israel’s war machine will be liable for ICC prosecution. I cannot lead a jihad, so I turn to international institutions.”

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