Open Letter to Minister Naledi Pandor

By KENNETH MOKGATLHE, who is pursuing a Master of Arts in African Studies, African Sustainable Communities program, at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. He is a political writer, analyst, and researcher.

I am a South African adult male pursuing postgraduate studies at Israel’s Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). I am writing this letter to request you open our mission in Tel Aviv, to allow me and other South Africans to exercise our constitutional right to vote in national elections.

I was told by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officials that they won’t be conducting elections in Israel because the government will not be opening the diplomatic mission during elections. In essence, the IEC is ready and prepared to conduct elections whenever the South African government can show political willingness to do so. These officials advised me to go to cast my vote in Ramallah, in the Palestinian territories. Due to logistical difficulties, I am unable to go to Ramallah. I am based in the far South of Israel, in a city called Beer Sheva. It could be easier and more manageable to travel to Tel Aviv.

Your actions are extreme and affect South Africans. I do not know how depriving me of my constitutional right will further isolate or punish Israel, as is your intention. Nor is it clear to me why stopping us South Africans from voting will help resolve the issue between Israel and Hamas. It is plainly undemocratic to exclude people like us (South Africans residing in Israel) from participating in the democratic process.

As a true Democrat, I understand that elections are a cornerstone of every functioning democracy where both the poor and rich are given the power to decide their fate. I know that there is apathy in our country especially amongst young people like myself; however, I and many other South Africans continue to believe that elections are a viable way to hold people like you accountable, at least once in a blue moon.

I find it difficult to be convinced that the mission is closed due to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. If the closure was a consequence of the war then all missions from both sides would have been shut down temporarily until further notice. In the last elections in 2019, only five people voted in Ramallah. There are more South Africans in Israel than in Ramallah, so why not allocate some resources to Tel Aviv for a single day to allow us to vote?

Minister, as a staunch supporter of Hamas and hater of Israel, I know that you believe that that those who will be voting from Ramallah will choose the ANC. Conversely, I am sure that you are aware that many of us in Israel are ready to vote against the ANC. Your decision is therefore not premised on a moral or ethical basis. This is a purely electoral strategy to see the ANC maintain its support through morally corrupt ways.

“Your decision is…not premised on a moral or ethical basis. This is a purely electoral strategy to see the ANC maintain its support through morally corrupt ways.”

It is possible, Minister Pandor, to love and support Palestine without necessarily hating Israel and its people. As a leader, you have to find the most possible and effective ways to resolve conflicts and seek co-operation. I hope that you use the same energy to help the Nigerians, Sudanese, and Mozambicans who are under attack by the Islamic radicals targeting and killing hundreds of black Africans.

All our ancestors fought for the right to vote; our forefathers died for us to have a voice. It cannot be true that you single-handedly take away the only right that the vulnerable like me can use against the powerful like you. You are suppressing the views of those you do not like. You should learn to be tolerant of dissenting views. Minister, I am not asking you to support Israel, I know you cannot do that, but I am pleading with you to consider your fellow South Africans who, like myself, are currently in Israel pursuing various goals.


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