Relations tense following Nzimande's visa rejection

The Israeli embassy informed him that he would be deemed 'an enemy of Israel' if he travelled there.

Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The International Relations Department says the Israeli government's refusal to allow Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande into Palestinian territory cannot be taken lightly and it will seek Israel's reasons for doing so before further action is taken.

Nzimande was due to conduct a six day working visit to the area to follow up on cooperative agreements signed when Palestinian authority president Mahmoud Abbas visited South Africa.

But his spokesperson says the Israeli embassy informed him on Wednesday night that he would not be allowed to travel and had been deemed "an enemy of Israel".

The department says it views this as an attack on the South African government.

The department's Clayson Monyela says, "Minister Nzimande is a fitting cabinet minister. We want to be given reason why they would refuse a sitting cabinet minister entry into their country.

"Once we are finished with these reasons we will then engage in substantive issues, but it's certainly a matter we will not leave lying down."

The trip was meant to last until next week as a follow-up visit promoting research collaboration between the University of Johannesburg and institutions in Palestine.

The department said it's consulting with the Department of International Relations and Coorporation on how to respond to Israel's decision.

Nkwanyana said the decision has effectively barred all South African officials from visiting both countries.