South Africans fighting for Israel in Gaza could face prosecution at home, the government warned Monday, as President Cyril Ramaphosa once again denounced the conflict in the Palestinian territory as “genocide.”
The South African foreign ministry expressed grave concern over reports that some South African nationals have joined the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to fight in Gaza or are considering doing so. The ministry stated that such actions could potentially contribute to the violation of international law and the commission of further international crimes, making them liable for prosecution in South Africa.
According to the ministry, South Africans must obtain prior government approval to legally fight in Israel. Naturalized citizens are also at risk of having their South African nationality revoked for engaging in a war that the country does not support or agree with.
The war in Gaza erupted when the strip’s Islamist rulers, Hamas, launched an unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7. Official Israeli figures indicate that around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, were killed, with another 250 abducted. Gaza’s Health Ministry claims that Israel’s military response has resulted in the deaths of over 19,400 people, primarily women and children, and the destruction of vast areas.
South Africa has long been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, often drawing parallels between it and the country’s own struggle against apartheid. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party strongly condemns Israel’s response to the Hamas attacks and has recalled all its diplomats from the country.
During a press conference with representatives of pro-Palestinian groups in Johannesburg, President Ramaphosa denounced the “genocidal onslaught and slaughter of the people of Palestine.”
The South African government’s warning serves as a deterrent to its citizens considering involvement in the conflict in Gaza. By emphasizing the potential legal repercussions and the country’s stance on the matter, South Africa aims to dissuade its citizens from participating in a war it does not endorse.