Inspiring show of courage by SA taking a stand on the Israel/Palestine conflict

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola speaks to the press before the International Court of Justice after the first day of the hearing of the genocide case against Israel, brought by South Africa in the Hague, Netherlands. Photo: EPA-EFE/REMKO DE WAAL

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola speaks to the press before the International Court of Justice after the first day of the hearing of the genocide case against Israel, brought by South Africa in the Hague, Netherlands. Photo: EPA-EFE/REMKO DE WAAL

Published Jan 15, 2024


It was Maya Angelou, an American memoirist, poet and civil rights activist, who said “the most important of all the virtues is courage because without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue consistently”.

She said: “Having courage does not mean that we are unafraid. Having courage and showing courage mean we face our fears. We are able to say, ‘I have fallen, but I will get up’.”

South Africa showed this courage on December 29 last year, when it took a stand against the state of Israel and instituted what is formally known as the South Africa versus Israel case at the International Court of Justice.

The case alleges that Israel has committed and continues to commit genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in violation of the Genocide Convention. One could not help but feel inspired and proud to be a South African, seeing the impressive calibre of the legal team arguing the case on January 11 this year, led by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola.

South Africa has taken a stand in the face of a world and global superpowers that have either triggered or covertly supported Israel, or been largely quiet on the conflict that has gone on for centuries. It is apt and symbolic that South Africa is the one to lead the stand against this conflict because South Africans, out of all nations, understand the lived experiences of apartheid and the destruction such hatred can cause on a nation and its people.

South Africans also understand the power of outside support to end such a system and its destruction.

As inspiring as this stand has been, there will possibly be consequences for South Africa coming from those who disagree with the position it has taken. That’s what it means when you come out, take a stand and show your true colours.

It’s a position of vulnerability; South Africa could lose the case and there will also be those who will take offence at the stance taken and use their power to punish us economically. Whatever the consequences, the point has been made.

Hence, it takes courage to stand for something and courage is the most important virtue, as Maya Angelou taught us.

As we begin the year, this inspiration could be necessary to trigger us to make some significant resolutions in our personal and business lives; to have the courage to make those decisions that cause us the most fear, but must be taken because although difficult, they are the right decisions for the business, society and everyone affected. They are critical decisions for the survival of the collective community. This is even more significant this year since it’s an election year.

South Africans are expected to go out in their numbers to cast a vote for a party that will govern this country. This is one single decision that we make every five years on an individual level that affects our collective quality of life and has affected how our lives have been in the past 30 years.

The governing party celebrated its 112 years anniversary this past weekend, and 30 years in government in Mbombela city in Mpumalanga province.

In his speech, the president of the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), highlighted the transformation project that the country has been on under the ANC leadership and government. The gains that this government has made since taking over from the apartheid government 30 years ago in transforming the country to create opportunities for all its citizens.

Among the highlights of the president’s address was the growth of the number of people on social grants, people the government is assisting to deal with poverty.

There is no doubt that the South Africa of today is completely different to the apartheid South Africa for the majority of the population. However, the highlight about the growth of the number of people on social grants was particularly disheartening.

We should instead be highlighting the reduction of the number of people requiring social safety nets because of all the initiatives put in place that are yielding economic growth and job creation to create opportunities for self sustenance.

It is disheartening that 30 years later we have not made a significant economic dent to lift people out of poverty; instead, the government has had to intervene by distributing a basic income grant to help people cope with poverty.

This economic situation does not have to remain as is. South Africans at a personal, business and political level can decide to take a stand against this, just like we have done against the Israel state on genocide.

We can be courageous to look within our span of control to transform the fortunes of those around us. Let’s end poverty and include everyone in the economy this year!

Dr Sibongile Vilakazi is president of the Black Management Forum.