30 April 2017



An estimated 1500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centers have declared the beginning of an open hunger strike on 17 April 2017. The call for hunger strike came amidst resentment of Israeli’s cruel policies towards political prisoners and detainees. The hunger striking prisoners’ demands include: family visits, proper medical care, an end to Israel’s practice of detaining Palestinians without charge or trial in so-called administrative detention and stopping the use of isolation. Here are some facts on Palestinian hunger strikes: 
What is the History of Palestinian Hunger Strikes? Hunger strikes have long been used in different geographical areas as means to protest and demand basic rights, including the right to vote, the right to be free from torture and the right to self-determination. The long history of Palestinian prisoners in mass and individual hunger strikes, reveals the lack of trust in any judicial process and the lack of fair trial guarantees they face under the military and civil court systems of the Israeli occupation. Palestinian prisoners and detainees have resorted to hunger strikes as early as 1968 as a legitimate peaceful protest to Israeli detention policies and cruel detention conditions including the use of solitary confinement, denial of family visits, inadequate medical treatment and torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
What are the Medical Risks of Hunger Strikes? Hunger strikes have associated health risks that can cause physical damage to the prisoner or detainee, including severe loss of weight, weakness, tiredness, inability to sleep, hearing loss, blindness, strokes, kidney failure as well as other organ failures, cardiac arrest, and heart attack. However, despite these medical risks, through hunger strikes, Palestinians have been able to obtain basic and fundamental rights and to improve their detention conditions through hunger strikes.
How do Israeli Authorities Deal with Hunger Strikes? Hunger strikes are often met with violent and coercive repression by Israeli Prison Service and special units, as well as medical personnel to push detainees to end their hunger strikes. Following hunger strikes, Addameer has documented several cases of raids on prison cells, transfers of hunger strikers to isolation cells, threats of indefinite detention, banning family visitation, reduction of money spent in the canteen.
What were other coercive measures taken? In response to the use of hunger strikes by Palestinian prisoners and detainees, Israeli authorities practiced force-feeding during the 1980s. It was subsequently ceased by order from the Israeli High Court following several deaths of Palestinian prisoners resulting from force-feeding. At the time of earlier hunger strikes, Israel practiced force-feeding of hunger-strikers in order to coerce detainees to end to their hunger strikes without any legislation to regulate this measure. Several Palestinian prisoners have died as a result of being subjected to force-feeding. These include Abdul-Qader Abu al-Fahm who had died on 11 May 1970 during a hunger strike in Ashkelon prison, Rasem Halawah and Ali al-Ja'fari, who died following the insertion of the feeding tubes into their lungs instead of their stomachs in July 1980 during a hunger strike in Nafha prison, and Ishaq Maragha, who died in Beersheba prison in 1983. Recently, a proposal for a legislation by the Israeli minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan was initiated in response to the mass hunger strike of 2012 with the purpose of putting an end to future hunger-strikes and depriving Palestinian detainees and prisoners of their fundamental right to peaceful protest. The bill was approved by the Israeli Knesset on the 30th of July 2015.
Since when have Hunger Strikes been used in Protest of Administrative Detention? At least since the 1990s, Palestinian prisoners have resorted to hunger strikes as means to protest Israeli arbitrary use of administrative detention. Administrative detention is a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold prisoners indefinitely on secret information without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. There are an estimated 750 Palestinians placed under administrative detention, including women, children, and Palestinian Legislative Council members.
In recent years, Palestinian prisoners and detainees have resorted to hunger strike to protest and increasing and systematic use of administrative detention by the occupation authorities. For example, in 2012, Palestinian prisoners and detainees declared a mass hunger strike, which involved nearly 2000 hunger strikers demanding the end of administrative detention, denial of family visitations to Gaza prisoners, isolation and other punitive measures. The 2012 hunger strike ended with Israel’s temporality limiting the use of administrative detention. However, few years later, the occupation authorities increased the use of administrative detention leading to another hunger strike in 2014 by over 80 administrative detainees asking for an end to the use of the arbitrary policy. The hunger strike ended after 63 days without forcing the Israeli government to limit the use of administrative detention.
Additionally, several Palestinian administrative detainees embarked on individual hunger strikes in protest of replacing them under administrative detention without charge or trial of several times. These individual hunger strikes included Mohammad Al Qeeq, Khader Adnan, Hana Shalabi, Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Kayed.  
Why do Palestinians Resort to Hunger Strikes? Palestinian prisoners and detainees resort to hunger strike in order to protest and have their voices heard outside an unfair legal system which administers their arbitrary detention and the repression of their voices. However, Israeli occupation authorities have not managed to break the will of Palestinian hunger strikers who continue to use their bodies, in the absence of any adequate judicial remedies, to practice legitimate disobedience. Hunger strikers defy disciplinary power of control and domination; the body of the hunger striker thereby constitutes a medium through which power is shifted and recreated. The prisoners and detainees refuse to comply with the prison’s structured system of constrain and privation where they do not have full autonomy over their bodies. Thus, through hunger strikes, these prisoners and detainees re-gain sovereignty over their bodies through becoming decision makers over the prison authorities.
What Are Our Demands?  Addameer Prisoner Support urges supporters of justice around the world to take action to support the Palestinian prisoners whose bodies and lives are on the line for freedom and dignity. Addameer urges all people to organize events in solidarity with the struggle of hunger-striking prisoners and detainees. 2017 marks 100 years of the Balfour declaration; 70 years of Palestinian Catastrophe (al-Nakba); 50 years of brutal military occupation. This is also the year to hold the Israeli occupation accountable for its actions and to demand the immediate release of all Palestinian political prisoners!
Addameer further calls upon the international community to demand that the Israeli government to respect the will of hunger strikers who use their bodies as a legitimate means of protest, which has been recognized by the World Medical Association (WMA) Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikes as “often a form of protest by people who lack other ways of making their demands known.” 

Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

P. O. Box: 17338, Jerusalem
3 Edward Said Street
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Ramallah, Palestine
Tel: +972 (0)2 296 0446 / 297 0136
Fax: +972 (0)2 296 0447

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Rasmea Defense Committee report on plea hearing
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150 of Rasmea’s closest supporters join her at plea hearing

VIDEO: Rally summary by Tom Callahan

On Tuesday, April 25, Palestinian American icon Rasmea Odeh was joined in Detroit by close to 150 supporters from across the Midwest, at a federal court plea hearing based on an agreement reached last month.  Sentencing will be formally imposed on August 17 in Detroit, but its terms were discussed and approved by Judge Gershwin Drain at this hearing.  Rasmea will be stripped of her citizenship, and have to leave the United States permanently. She will not be sentenced to any further prison time (Drain jailed Rasmea for five weeks in November and December of 2014 after her conviction at trial), and she will “voluntarily” depart the country without being detained by immigration authorities.

The courtroom was packed, leaving many supporters to watch the fairly straightforward proceedings from an overflow room. The government summarized the terms of the plea agreement, and Rasmea’s lead attorney, Michael Deutsch, added a few points. While the government was not asking for more prison time or a fine if the plea was approved, Drain informed Rasmea that he would determine the sentence, which normally would carry a maximum of 10 years imprisonment plus a $200,000 penalty.  But, later in the hearing, he clarified that he intended to honor the terms of the agreement.

After a few other clarifications, Drain asked Rasmea if she agreed to the “factual basis” of the plea agreement. After a long pause, and some quiet exchanges with Deutsch, Rasmea said, “I signed.” This was not enough for Drain, who asked several times for Rasmea to say she was guilty. Each time, she answered, “Yes, I signed it.” Once more, he insisted that she must admit guilt. Rasmea paused again, then answered, “I signed this; it says I’m guilty.” It was clear that this was as far as Rasmea was willing to go, so Drain relented, and approved the plea agreement.

It is important to note that this agreement did not include the last minute submissions by zionist Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel, who attempted to put on the record that Rasmea had committed “terrorist” acts and was a member of a “designated terrorist organization.” One final time, Tukel was denied the opportunity to use the case against Rasmea as a platform to grandstand for Israel.

Surprisingly, former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade—who brought the original indictment against Rasmea but resigned after being asked to by Trump’s new Attorney General Jeff Sessions—was sitting in the first row of the courtroom.

“For years, she had claimed that this was not a political case, and that Rasmea was not being targeted for being Palestinian,” said Nesreen Hasan of the Rasmea Defense Committee, “but McQuade was so invested in this plea that she showed up when it’s not even her job anymore!”  Rasmea’s supporters were so incensed that they chanted “Shame on you” and “You’re a phony” to McQuade while filing out of the courtroom.

Everyone then rallied for a program on the steps outside the courthouse. Deutsch spoke first, explaining that because the government was prosecuting this simple immigration case as one related to terrorism, it was doubtful that Rasmea could receive a fair trial.

Hatem Abudayyeh, of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), said, “We’re going to lose Rasmea, she’s going to leave [us]. We know that. But we also know that for three and a half years, we put Israel on trial in the United States. We put their treatment of Palestinians in 1948 Palestine, in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Jerusalem, in all the refugee camps on trial. We put their treatment of our political prisoners on trial. We put their military courts on trial. We put their torture on trial. We did incredibly valuable and valiant work.

“And because of her bravery, because she said from day one, ‘I’m not going to allow anyone to criminalize my people,’ we built support from the most important social justice movements in the country … anti-torture, women’s rights, sexual assault survivors, immigrant rights, Movement for Black Lives, anti-war… [they all] came out in support of Rasmea, and in support of Palestine, because of the brave woman who’s standing here today.”

Abudayyeh praised some of the individuals and groups that played a critical role in defending Rasmea over the years—her legal team (Deutsch, Jim Fennerty, Dennis Cunningham, Bill Goodman, and Huwaida Arraf); Arab, Black, and Latinx youth from the Arab American Action Network; members of the Arab Women’s Committee established by Rasmea back in 2004; organizers from the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) and the Anti-War Committees of Chicago and Minnesota; Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) activists; and leaders of the national organizations that anchored the political defense, the Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR) and USPCN.

Frank Chapman (below) of CAARPR then took the mic. “This is a sad moment for me, but we gotta measure up. The Palestinian movement for liberation is not lost and is not losing, and it’s because we have comrades, sisters like Rasmea Odeh. It’s been a proud moment for me to stand with this movement, to stand with this comrade, because united in struggle I know we can’t lose.”

Jess Sundin of CSFR was introduced next, and said, “We are absolutely committed to continuing to stand with you. At the end of day, we don’t run these courtrooms. We don’t make these laws, we don’t write these plea agreements… but we can always fight back. We can always resist. We can be sure that Rasmea’s work, wherever she is, will continue to make a huge difference in advancing the struggle for the liberation of Palestine, and the liberation of all of us.”

Black4Palestine’s Kristian Bailey added, “Angela Davis said two years ago in Chicago, she knew that when the government went after her it wasn’t because she as an individual was a criminal. They were trying to target and dismantle an entire movement. She said the same thing is true in Rasmea’s case. And we’re not going to let them dismantle the wonderful movement we built in Chicago; we’re not going to back down. Now is the time to unite and fight and win!”

Veteran organizer Elaine Rumman of USPCN's Detroit chapter thanked Rasmea for her work and commitment and said, "[Rasmea] is our star; she is our success!"

Lorena Buni of Anakbayan, a Filipino youth organization, criticized the unjust system that attacked Rasmea: “The reality is, they are the ones who are afraid of us, for them to go to this extent to criminalize such a strong woman and organizer. And we will not let the struggle die. We will continue the fight. Rasmea did not lose today, because everyone that’s gathered here today stands in solidarity with her and with Palestine.”

An alumnus of National SJP, Leila Abdelrazaq, recalled a lesson shared by Rasmea to an SJP conference years prior: “She told us young Palestinians that we shouldn’t feel that the Palestine movement is separate from us, or that what’s happening in Palestine is separate from us. Rasmea has proven she fights for Palestinians all over the world. She came to the U.S. and dedicated her life to our community here, just like she did back home. … Rasmea’s dedication to that fight makes us also fight for her, and fight for each other.”

Brant Rosen of Jewish Voice for Peace wrapped up the solidarity messages, praising Rasmea and addressing her directly: “The best teachers don’t teach by what they say or what they write, but by what they are. What I take away today is the image of you standing before the judge, who was demanding that you say to him and the world that you are guilty, and you refused, because you are not guilty. Your strength and your courage and your kindness and your compassion really teaches all of us how to be in this world.”

After a number of already emotional moments, Rasmea stepped forward to thank her supporters, speaking first in Arabic and then in English. “I believe my case is Palestine’s case,” she began, her voice cracking. “We have to continue our struggle to get our freedom and to have our Palestine [be free] and to go back. We have to go back to our villages. There is no choice. No choices. Like today in court, they gave me no other choice – [either] prison and then [get sent] back. Or [deportation] without jail.

“I think to continue my struggle, I chose this [even] if it’s hard. I don’t want to leave! This is my second country. But they want me to leave because they want to destroy us, to destroy our struggle.  So we have to continue our struggle.  Thank you for your support… your support is very important to me… to Palestine… to all countries struggling for freedom and justice.”

Watch the full video here.  And continue to help us with our expenses at justice4rasmea.org/donate, or by purchasing our brand new t-shirt here.

Supporters will return to Detroit with Rasmea on August 17 for the formal sentencing. Before that, a massive sendoff for her will be organized in Chicago.  Look for an announcement soon, as we hope people from all across the country will attend—to say farewell, and to honor Rasmea’s lifetime of work for Palestinian liberation.

Rasmea Defense Committee, led by USPCN and CSFR
Friday, April 28, 2017 - #Justice4Rasmea

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26 April 2017


Why We Are on Hunger Strike in Israel’s Prisons

Photos of prisoners during a demonstration demanding the release of the Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, in Ramallah, West Bank, this month. Credit Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images 

HADARIM PRISON, Israel — Having spent the last 15 years in an Israeli prison, I have been both a witness to and a victim of Israel’s illegal system of mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners. After exhausting all other options, I decided there was no choice but to resist these abuses by going on a hunger strike.

Some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to take part in this hunger strike, which begins today, the day we observe here as Prisoners’ Day. Hunger striking is the most peaceful form of resistance available. It inflicts pain solely on those who participate and on their loved ones, in the hopes that their empty stomachs and their sacrifice will help the message resonate beyond the confines of their dark cells.

Decades of experience have proved that Israel’s inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation. In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it.

Israel, the occupying power, has violated international law in multiple ways for nearly 70 years, and yet has been granted impunity for its actions. It has committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions against the Palestinian people; the prisoners, including men, women and children, are no exception.

I was only 15 when I was first imprisoned. I was barely 18 when an Israeli interrogator forced me to spread my legs while I stood naked in the interrogation room, before hitting my genitals. I passed out from the pain, and the resulting fall left an everlasting scar on my forehead. The interrogator mocked me afterward, saying that I would never procreate because people like me give birth only to terrorists and murderers.

A few years later, I was again in an Israeli prison, leading a hunger strike, when my first son was born. Instead of the sweets we usually distribute to celebrate such news, I handed out salt to the other prisoners. When he was barely 18, he in turn was arrested and spent four years in Israeli prisons.
The eldest of my four children is now a man of 31. Yet here I still am, pursuing this struggle for freedom along with thousands of prisoners, millions of Palestinians and the support of so many around the world. What is it with the arrogance of the occupier and the oppressor and their backers that makes them deaf to this simple truth: Our chains will be broken before we are, because it is human nature to heed the call for freedom regardless of the cost.

Israel has built nearly all of its prisons inside Israel rather than in the occupied territory. In doing so, it has unlawfully and forcibly transferred Palestinian civilians into captivity, and has used this situation to restrict family visits and to inflict suffering on prisoners through long transports under cruel conditions. It turned basic rights that should be guaranteed under international law — including some painfully secured through previous hunger strikes — into privileges its prison service decides to grant us or deprive us of.

Palestinian prisoners and detainees have suffered from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, and medical negligence. Some have been killed while in detention. According to the latest count from the Palestinian Prisoners Club, about 200 Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 because of such actions. Palestinian prisoners and their families also remain a primary target of Israel’s policy of imposing collective punishment.

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, The Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.

Through our hunger strike, we seek an end to these abuses.

Over the past five decades, according to the human rights group Addameer, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned or detained by Israel — equivalent to about 40 percent of the Palestinian territory’s male population. Today, about 6,500 are still imprisoned, among them some who have the dismal distinction of holding world records for the longest periods in detention of political prisoners. There is hardly a single family in Palestine that has not endured the suffering caused by the imprisonment of one or several of its members.

How to account for this unbelievable state of affairs?

Israel has established a dual legal regime, a form of judicial apartheid, that provides virtual impunity for Israelis who commit crimes against Palestinians, while criminalizing Palestinian presence and resistance. Israel’s courts are a charade of justice, clearly instruments of colonial, military occupation. According to the State Department, the conviction rate for Palestinians in the military courts is nearly 90 percent.

Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members of prisoners. And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation.

Instead, though, Israel’s prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners’ movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom.

Israel has tried to brand us all as terrorists to legitimize its violations, including mass arbitrary arrests, torture, punitive measures and severe restrictions. As part of Israel’s effort to undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom, an Israeli court sentenced me to five life sentences and 40 years in prison in a political show trial that was denounced by international observers.

Israel is not the first occupying or colonial power to resort to such expedients. Every national liberation movement in history can recall similar practices. This is why so many people who have fought against oppression, colonialism and apartheid stand with us. The International Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouti and All Palestinian Prisoners that the anti-apartheid icon Ahmed Kathrada and my wife, Fadwa, inaugurated in 2013 from Nelson Mandela’s former cell on Robben Island has enjoyed the support of eight Nobel Peace Prize laureates, 120 governments and hundreds of leaders, parliamentarians, artists and academics around the world.

Their solidarity exposes Israel’s moral and political failure. Rights are not bestowed by an oppressor. Freedom and dignity are universal rights that are inherent in humanity, to be enjoyed by every nation and all human beings. Palestinians will not be an exception. Only ending occupation will end this injustice and mark the birth of peace.

Editors’ Note: April 17, 2017
This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.

red-jos's note: 26 April2017

As usual, the dishonesty and bias of the New York Times is such that they do not bother to tell their readers that Bargouti's trial was rigged and stage-managed and all human and legal rights and democratic processes were ignored by the Israelis for the trial. 


Aticle by Gideon Levy from Haaretz 21 April 2017

Opinion A Heartfelt Apology to Haaretz Readers

To all offended readers, I apologize for the one-sidedness. How could I not maintain a balance between the murderer and the murdered; the thief and his victim; and the occupier and the occupied?
Gideon Levy Apr 21, 2017 3:14 PM

Israeli forces firing tear gas toward Palestinian protesters during clashes in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, April 17, 2017. AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP

    Video: Settlers attack, injure activists accompanying Palestinian shepherds in West Bank
    Gideon Levy An Israeli soldier shot a Palestinian in front of her kids. Where's her compensation?
    Most Palestinian minors arrested by Israel claim physical violence during detention
    Gideon Levy Israeli army gunfire paralyzed this young Palestinian, and his entire family

Dear Orna and Moshe Gan-Zvi,

I was saddened to read in Tuesday’s Hebrew edition of Haaretz that you’ve decided to cancel your subscription. I don’t know you, but I will miss you as readers. As someone who is partly responsible for your decision, as your article indicated, allow me to apologize. To apologize for writing the truth all these years. I should have taken into account that this truth wasn’t palatable to you, and acted accordingly.

It was not pleasant for you to read the theory put forward by me and my fellow Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass about the occupation. You, who are active in Rotary Israel, who come from the business world, who are so proud of your children and the fact that they live in the West Bank. Your son was educated at the Eli premilitary academy, and your granddaughters proudly carry the last name Sheetrit. You, who are so pleased with yourselves and your values, with your children and your morals, don’t think you should be forced to read unpleasant truths. You simply don’t deserve it.

Indeed, how could I have spent all these years publishing articles that even you, generously, admitted were touching, without ever, to my shame, checking how these Palestinian families ended up in their serious predicaments? Really, how did that happen? Of course it was their own fault, but I keep blaming the Israel Defense Forces – how could I? And how could Amira Hass be so one-sided and lacking in perspective that would explain how a people could prefer the elimination of another people over a democratic society? Really, how could you, Amira?

I assume, Moshe, that if they were to lock you in a cage for years, you would continue your Rotary membership and refuse to back a struggle against your incarceration. I assume, Orna, that if foreign soldiers were to burst into your home in the middle of the night and arrest your Moshe before your eyes, kick him, force him to his knees, blindfold him, handcuff him, and beat him in front of your children who study in Eli – and then snatch him from your home for months without trial – you would be looking for some “creative leadership” for your people.

I assume that you, who come from the business world, would lovingly accept those who confiscate your property and ban you from your own land. I’m sure it would never occur to you to struggle against those who have tortured you with such evil for so many years.

What can we do? The Palestinians are different from you, dear Orna and Moshe. They were not born in such lofty heights as you. They are human animals, bloodthirsty, born to kill. Not all of them are as ethical as you and your children from the Eli academy. Yes, there are people who fight for their freedom. There are people who are forced to do so violently. In fact, there are almost no nations who haven’t acted this way, including the chosen people you’re proud to belong to. Not only do you belong; you are the pillar of fire that leads the camp, you’re the best, the moral elite – you, the religious Zionists.

I apologize for the one-sidedness. How could I not maintain a balance between the murderer and the murdered; the thief and his victim; the occupier and the occupied? Forgive me for daring to turn off your joy and pride in the land flowing with milk and Mobileye, and cherry tomatoes, too. There are so many wonderful things in this country, and Haaretz – with its “moral deterioration,” as you call it – is ruining the party. How did I not see that you don’t like to read the truth, and didn’t take this into account when I’d return from the occupied territories every week to write about what I’d seen with my own eyes?

But now it’s too late. The call to boycott chocolate spread was too much even for you, so you’ve decided to boycott Haaretz. From now on, the only paper on your coffee table will be the weekly, right-wing Makor Rishon. They won’t write about how IDF soldiers sprayed five Palestinian car passengers with bullets three weeks ago, and I’m sure your Shabbats will be a lot more pleasant from now on.

Gideon Levy

Haaretz Correspondent

read more: Haaretz.com/opinion

14 April 2017


National Day of Action: When mass power knocked on Zuma’s door

  • Ranjeni Munusamy
  • South Africa
  • 13 Apr 2017  Daily Maverick
442 Reactions

The Zuma presidency has come full circle. He was carried on a wave of mass popularity to the presidency and so it seems that mass power will bring him to his knees. On Wednesday, 10 of South Africa’s opposition parties led a crowd of over 80,000 people to the South Lawn of the Union Buildings, where they demanded that Zuma’s lumbering and destructive presidency be brought to an end. Because South African politics now parodies an epic thespian production, this all happened on the president’s birthday, which was marked at an elaborate celebration hosted by Zuma’s faction in the ANC. This is a time when history and politics are being redefined. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

On May 10, 1994 an estimated 100,000 people gathered at the magnificent Union Buildings to see power transferred from an illegitimate and racist regime to South Africa’s first democratic government. After more than three centuries of white rule, Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black and democratically elected president. It was a day of unparalleled celebration for a nation rising out of the ashes into a new era with one of the world’s greatest leaders at the helm. 

Skip ahead 23 years.

Tens of thousands of people turned up at the Union Buildings, not to praise the president, but to seek to bury his disastrous and highly compromised presidency. This gathering on April 12, 2017 had a vastly different atmosphere. It was a display of a popular revolt; tens of thousands of people from across party lines marched from Church Square in the Pretoria city centre to the seat of power.

Their message was rather straightforward: South Africa’s president must step down or be removed from power.

And so another new era begins. This time the revolution is not led by the ANC, the party at the forefront of the fight against Apartheid and the governing party in the democratic era. The ANC has turned on itself and is convulsing from corruption eating at its soul, the toll of too many scandals involving its leaders, bitter factional battles, the capture of the state by a family that disrespects its political mandate, and a president who has done everything in his power to bring the organisation into disrepute.

The ANC’s decline has been years in the making but the tipping point was solely Zuma’s doing. In an act of irrationality to please those he is beholden to, Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet, dislodging a highly credible team from the National Treasury. Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas were fired as minister and deputy minister of finance, for no logical reason, and the director-general Lungisa Fuzile has subsequently resigned. Zuma’s act of wilful sabotage of the economy – the second in 15 months – led to ratings downgrades to junk status by S&P and Fitch, plunging the country into a state of unprecedented political and economic crisis.

Zuma’s leadership has been a heavy burden for the ANC, forcing the party to defend a series of intolerable actions, including a violation of the Constitution. But he has been a boon for the opposition. The ANC lost control of three metros in last year’s local government elections to Democratic Alliance (DA)-led coalition governments.

While Zuma has torn his own party apart, his actions have pushed opposition parties into a united front against him.
The mass march to the Union Buildings was led by leaders of the DA, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), United Democratic Movement (UDM), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Congress of the People (Cope), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Agang SA, African People’s Convention, African Independent Congress, and Azapo. Usually competitors, the parties brought their supporters together in an unparalleled show of strength.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa proposed the holding a summit of political and civil society leaders “to hammer out a common vision, binding to all, of how we should address our country’s problems”.

We can’t continue marching forever. We must find a way to converge in under one roof to discuss South Africa’s future,” Holomisa said.

The IFP’s Youth Brigade leader Mkhuleko Hlengwa said Zuma was in office to serve his own interests and that of his family. 

Zuma is a failed liberation fighter and must go… We are here with the red card to say Mr Zuma your time has come.”

EFF leader Julius Malema, who stepped into the lead role on the day, told masses of protesters that the national day of action was not a once-off event. He vowed that there would be rolling mass action until Zuma was removed. No memorandum was delivered to the Presidency, Malema said, because the person who occupies the office does not read.

Malema mocked the president’s labelling of the protests against him as racist, saying “If wanting Zuma out is racist, then we are all racists.” He also dismissed claims by Zuma’s allies in the ANC that the ratings downgrades to junk status would only affect the rich and white people. 

Junk status is not an issue of white people alone. It is going to affect the poorest of the poor and less paid workers… When we take power in 2019, bread will be R80 and you will blame us,” Malema said.
He accused ANC Members of Parliament of being cowards, saying they would not vote against Zuma openly in a motion of no confidence debate. Because of threats and intimidation of MPs, Malema called on the Constitutional Court to “protect life” by ruling in favour of a secret ballot in the UDM’s application to the court. 

Parliament announced on Wednesday that the motion of no confidence debate had been postponed from April 18 on request from DA leader Mmusi Maimane, to allow the Constitutional Court to rule on the matter.

According to the Presidency, Zuma was in his office on Wednesday morning, meeting with his ministers, but left later in the day to celebrate his birthday at an ANC bash in Kliptown, Soweto. At the start of the event, Zuma appeared fatigued and downcast but warmed up as his deification unfolded. The party could compete with the praise singing sessions of the world’s best despots, with sycophants lining up to extend their well wishes and pledge their unfailing support for him.
Much effort was made to project Zuma as a universally loved leader who would remain in office until his term ended. But it became glaringly obvious that the event was only attended by people in the Zuma faction of the ANC, with the notable absence of four of the party’s top six leaders, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, secretary general Gwede Mantashe, national chairperson Baleka Mbete and treasurer general Zweli Mkhize. Only deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte attended and made cutting remarks in her speech about people who had turned against the president. 

Others who attended and spoke included Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini, Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association president Kebby Maphatsoe, ANC Youth League secretary general Njabulo Nzuza and ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini. One of Zuma’s chief defenders, Nomvula Mokonyane, was the MC. 

In his address, Zuma said he was not bothered by the onslaught he was facing. He said he did not experience stress as it was an affliction of white people. He told his supporters not to worry about the protest action against him and the campaign by opposition parties to remove him from office. He claimed opposition parties were similarly opposed to Mandela and former president Thabo Mbeki. 

Zuma ridiculed the protests and calls for him to step down, saying opposition leaders would demand his resignation even if he coughed or sneezed, or if they saw the presidential convoy. 

Playing to the gallery, Zuma said he would step down if the ANC wanted him to.

There are a few more months left before my task as president ends. In December, a new president will be elected,” Zuma said. “In 2019, I will take off my hat of being the state president. I want to tell you that even if you said tomorrow I should step down from these positions, I would do so with a clean heart.” 

Zuma promised, however, that even if he were to step down, he would not disappear into obscurity.

No matter how disconnected from reality Zuma is, he must know by now that the ground has shifted. From the moment he recalled Gordhan from his overseas investor roadshow, the country switched into overdrive with a rapid succession of staggering developments. His Cabinet reshuffle triggered an explosion of public anger and accelerated the crisis in the ANC. More and more people are pulling away from Zuma. 

Civil society organisations and opposition political parties have discovered the power of a united voice and are now charting a new path ahead to intensify pressure on Zuma and the ANC. While the parliamentary vote against Zuma in a motion of no confidence is a long shot, the focus is again shifting to the ANC with calls for a special national executive committee meeting to discuss the crisis. But the ANC’s state of paralysis is now so rooted that bold decision-making seems rather impossible. 

As the mass protest march made its way to the Union Buildings on Wednesday, just ahead of the line-up of leaders, someone dragged the remnants of an ANC t-shirt bearing Zuma’s face along the road. People kicked it along and stomped on it. And as the rally on the lawns rounded up, a cardboard and wire coffin with Zuma’s name on it was set alight. It flamed and then disintegrated into embers as people congregated around it singing “Happy Birthday Zupta”. 

Photo by Ranjeni Munusamy.
As Zuma clutches on to power, he should be aware that the turning tide spells bad news for him and his clique. In the same way he rose to power, he seems destined to fall. If the treatment of his effigies is anything to go by, he could be heading for an inglorious end. DM
Photo: Protesters hold banners as they crowd the lawns of the Union Buildings during a mass protest by all opposition parties in the country calling for President Zuma to step down, Pretoria, South Africa, 12 April 2017. EPA/KIM LUDBROOK


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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm