Call for Israeli officials to face travel ban to SA

This comes after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande was denied a visa to travel to Palestine.

Israel flag. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - There have been calls for travel bans to be implemented for Israeli officials who wish to come to South Africa after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande was denied a visa to travel to the state of Palestine.

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

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

Israel says it took that decision because of Nzimande's public utterances over the occupation of Palestine.

Nzimande is not the first government official to be denied an Israeli visa. In 2012, Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi was stopped from entering Palestine for his criticism over Israel's military occupation.

Spokesperson for group Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Kwara Kekana says this is direct aggression.

"There is a trend of victimisation and there is a deliberate attempt to victimise these comrades. And we said that this issue isn't even in particular about Minister Blade Nzimande, but clearly try to undermine the efforts of the sincerity movement in South Africa."

Kekana says they will approach Home Affairs over Israeli access to the country.

Meanwhile, the International Relations Department said the Israeli government's refusal to allow Nzimande into Palestinian territory cannot be taken lightly and it will seek Israel's reasons for doing so before further action is taken.

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

The department's Clayson Monyela said, "Minister Nzimande is a sitting 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."