South Africa: a big march in solidarity with the Palestinians

South Africa: a big march in solidarity with the Palestinians

Thousands of South Africans participated this Saturday in a march in support of Palestinians living in Gaza as the conflict between Israel and Hamas rages and demand the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador.

The protesters were led by clergy of different faiths, chanting “Free Palestine.”

Renowned anti-apartheid cleric Dr. Allan Boesak calls for Israeli embassy to be closed. “We have had enough of Israeli apartheid and we must demonstrate it through our actions,” added the secretary general of the ruling African National Congress, Fikile Mbalula, echoing his calls for the “closure” of the embassy. .

The South African government announced on Monday that it would recall all its diplomats from Israel to signal its concern about the situation in Gaza.

Pretoria also said the position of the Israeli ambassador in the country was becoming "increasingly untenable", accusing the diplomat of making "disparaging remarks" about people critical of Israel.

“The South African government has decided to withdraw all its diplomats to Tel Aviv for consultation,” Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, a minister in the presidential cabinet, said at a press briefing, without providing further details.

Gunmen from the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas stormed the Gaza-Israel border on October 7, killing around 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking more than 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Since then, Israel has relentlessly bombed Gaza and sent ground troops. The health ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory says more than 10,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians.

Pretoria has long been a staunch defender of the Palestinian cause, with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) often linking it to its own fight against apartheid.

Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said recalling diplomats was "normal practice", adding that envoys would give a "full briefing" to the government, which will then decide whether it can be useful or whether a "continued relationship can actually be supported.” »

“We are extremely concerned by the continued killings of children and innocent civilians in the Palestinian territories and we believe that the nature of Israel's response has become collective punishment,” Pandor said in a statement. press release Monday, when she welcomed him. His Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.

"We considered it important to signal South Africa's concern while continuing to call for a comprehensive cessation (of hostilities)."

Hamas welcomed the decision and called on South Africa to “cut all ties” with Israel.

'Dissatisfaction with the ambassador'

Earlier, Ntshavheni accused Israeli Ambassador Eliav Belotserkovsky of making derogatory remarks about South Africans, including members of the government, "who denounce the holocaust committed by the Israeli government". .

The Department of Foreign Affairs was tasked with “expressing the South African government's dissatisfaction with the ambassador” through diplomatic channels, she explained.

“We thought it was important to bring in the ambassador,” Pandor added.

"There seems to be a strange practice among some ambassadors in South Africa that they can just say whatever they want, I don't know if it's because it's an African country and they disrespect, but that's something we shouldn't tolerate," she said.

Last month, Pandor denied expressing support for the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in a phone call with the group's leader, who she said had instead focused on humanitarian aid.

Numerous pro-Palestinian protests have taken place across South Africa over the past month.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was among many ANC officials who participated, displaying flags and keffiyehs, in a sign of solidarity with the Palestinians.

Home to the largest Jewish community in sub-Saharan Africa, the country has also been the scene of several pro-Israel protests and initiatives, including the installation in Johannesburg of a Shabbat table with empty chairs and photos of the hostages held by Hamas.

South Africa: travel around twenty kilometers to go to school

Midweek mornings at Nhlangothi's home in the small village of Stratford are a hive of activity as five siblings get ready for school.

From 4:30 a.m., Luyanda Hlali fetches firewood prepared the day before, mixes it with cow dung and lights a fire to boil water inside a mud hut.

She doesn't dare sleep any longer, because after her chores, she has to go to school, which is in the mining town of Dundee, 10 kilometers from her village.

Particularly in winter, she faces a dark, cold and dangerous journey for a young girl who must pass through the bush before she can reach a good road.

This is the kind of effort that thousands of children in South Africa and millions of children across the African continent must make to access education in schools far from home.

Hlali is one of more than 200,000 schoolchildren in KwaZulu-Natal province who desperately need transport to school.

The Government's own policy on school transport is that schoolchildren living more than 3 kilometers from school should benefit from school buses.

Today, campaigners and campaigners are pressuring the government to provide transport for more than 200,000 learners.

Hlali and her siblings live in cramped conditions with their grandmother Bongiwe Nhlangothi.

She fears that her granddaughter will not have equitable access to education because the needs of children like her are simply being ignored.

“They go to school on empty stomachs and the only hope I have is that they can have everything there is to eat when they get to school. They leave the house way too early to get to class in time, but they are exhausted by the time they get to school,” says Bongiwe Nhlangothi.

She asks: “How can we expect them to attend class and pay attention to what their teachers are saying when they are so tired? »

Hlali says: “I usually arrive at school around 7 a.m. and I arrive tired. I often have trouble concentrating on what the teacher is saying and sometimes I fall asleep. When they (teachers) scold me, all I can tell them is that I'm tired.

Psychologist Melinda du Toit says the problem is inequality and poor people who cannot afford to live in urban areas struggle to improve their lives.

She says children are physically unable to study properly when they are tired and are deprived of a proper education.

She explains: “When you're tired, the neurotransmitters, those things that are supposed to carry messages to your prefrontal cortex, they don't work. They really don't work. And no matter how smart you are, the brain is like a computer and it works in a specific way.

Du Toit believes it is essential that schools address the difficulties faced by children in rural areas.

"The teacher might think, you know, that they're lazy or they're just difficult, that they're just bad kids and they don't take into account - we have to think, we have to think about what this child lived for all those hours before, now that this child is sitting in front of me,” she says.

A 2020 report by human rights campaign group Amnesty International described South Africa's education system as "plagued by stark inequalities and chronic underperformance that have deep roots in the legacy of apartheid, but which are also not effectively combated by the current government.

In the province, more than 30% of the population is unemployed and dependent on social benefits.

They say if they pay a monthly transport fee of R350, they cannot buy food.

Local councilor Matthew Ngcobo says some routes to schools are on dangerous terrain.

He says a river washed away a car and parents fear the same thing will happen to their children.

According to Ngcobo, parents try to accommodate their children with friends or relatives who live on the other side of the river.

In another village, a frustrated school principal explains the battle schools face to get buses to transport children.

He wishes to remain anonymous because he says he is not authorized to speak to the media.

According to the principal of her school, young girls were raped and robbed on their way to school because the bus which could only carry 65 passengers was full.

His school only has two buses to transport more than 400 young people.

In September 2022, schoolchildren died when their overcrowded transport van crashed with a truck in Pongola, KwaZulu-Natal.

Dumisani Ziqubu, chairman of the Student Governing Body of Ubusi Mixed School, says parents cannot take their children to school or on a safe road because they too face journeys to commute to work or work long hours.

Teenager Bayanda Hlongwane is a Grade 9 student at Ebusi Combined School.

He lives with his relatives about 2 kilometers from the school after begging his parents to let him move there.

Bayanda Hlongwane said he struggled to get enough time for assignments set by teachers and was unable to keep up with his studies in class.

The Paris Peace Forum: focus on artificial intelligence

The sixth edition of the annual Paris Peace Forum kicked off Friday in the French capital, aiming to address a wide range of global challenges, from climate change to migration.

But it is also a unique platform to discuss the crucial role that artificial intelligence can play in development.

This is particularly true in Africa, despite challenges such as the high cost of connectivity and low internet penetration on the continent.

For Sally Bilaly SOW of the organization Guinea Check, it is not necessary to wait for Internet penetration to reach 100% to understand how AI works.

“We must adopt it now, integrate it into our daily practices, but also and above all raise awareness of its positive aspects,” he declared.

Cameroonian Steve MengnHe said artificial intelligence plays a crucial role in Africa's development, but there is still a long way to go before its benefits reach many remote villages.

“In rural areas, in villages where we live every day, there are no networks, there is no light. So how do you want AI to have an impact,” he said. he asked.

In connected regions, AI has the potential to transform Africa through significant advances in health and agriculture through applications tailored to specific needs.

Vilas Dhar is president of the Patrick J McGovern Foundation, an organization that focuses on artificial intelligence and data solutions.

He said he was inspired by the work being done on the ground across the continent.

“In places as far-flung as Morocco, South Africa and Senegal, where the government recently rolled out a new national AI strategy that recognizes that AI is something that could lead to social progress and economic significance."

The Paris Peace Forum highlighted the essential role of artificial intelligence and its impact on development.

But countries will need to work together to find a balance between technological innovation and responsibility.
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