In what can be seen as a momentous time for solidarity strikes, political parties and MPs have today engaged in a 24-hour, in protest against Palestinian prisoners who are serving jail sentenced without their cases going to court in Israeli prisons.
An estimated 1500 prisoners are being kept behind bars, many of whom are women and children.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is a former chairperson of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, joined the ranks of ANC stalwart Laloo Chiba as well as Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and a range of other MPs in the strike action, which began at 6pm last night and will be broken at 6pm this evening. No food is consumed within the 24 hours.
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.
For the duration of the hunger strike, those who are partaking are only allowed to drink salt water, in honour of the striking Palestinian prisoners who have been striking for 28 days now, and have been surviving on nothing but salt water.
“We welcome the endorsement by the deputy president, and we hope that his actions will inspire other South Africans to follow suit and support the solidarity hunger strike,” said Neeshan Balton, the director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
“Ramaphosa’s commitment to the campaign sends a strong message that South Africa stands with the Palestinian people in their quest for freedom and dignity. His support is globally significant as he might possibly be the most senior politician endorsing the demands of the Palestinian prisoners.”
At 6pm, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Nomaindia Mfeketo as well as parliamentary counsellor to the president Ebrahim Ebrahim will be addressing crowds at Constitution Hill, where they will be talking about the plight of Palestinian prisoners and the dire conditions in which they kept.
Prisoners are demanding to stand trial, for access to lawyers and for better medical care.
Pickets have been planned at all nine provincial legislatures, to ask parliamentary MPs to join in the strike action.
Leading the international strike action is Palestinian activist and leader Marwan Barghouti, who is currently serving a sentence for murder.
Kwara Kekana from BDS South Africa urged South Africans to continue pledging their support for the solidarity hunger strike by emailing their names and details to firstname.lastname@example.org . “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’,” Kekana said.