In his first statement as chairperson of the African Union (AU) South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, on Sunday compared US President Donald Trump’s “Peace Plan” for Palestine to that of apartheid South Africa’s Bantustan system.
“It brought to mind a horrible history that we, as South Africa, went through. The apartheid regime once imposed a Bantustan system on the people of South Africa without consulting them,” said Ramaphosa. He was speaking in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, during the 33rd African Union Summit, held under the theme “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions For Africa’s Development.”
Ramaphosa said that as he listed to Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s speech on the Trump plan, “it sounds like this plan has been consulted without all the people that matter – especially the Palestinians – and it sounds like a Bantustan type of construct.”
Ramaphosa was referring to disjointed territories set aside for black inhabitants of South Africa and South West Africa (now Namibia), as part of the policy of apartheid. While Pretoria claimed that these were independent, sovereign states where citizens had full rights, the homelands were – in reality – under the complete control of the apartheid regime.
Under Trump’s plan, Israel would annex over 30% of the West Bank – the site of a future Palestinian state. The plan creates a demilitarised Palestinian state on a series of disconnected patches of land. Palestinians would have no control over its own security, borders, waters, and foreign policy, ceding these to Israel.
Ramaphosa’s statements came after the president of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, told the assembled heads of state that the plan, published at the end of January, represented a “violation of multiple resolutions of the United Nations and the African Union.”
Mahamat said Trump’s peace plan was prepared by himself without international consultation and that he “trampled on the rights of the Palestinian people.”
Mahamat reiterated “the solidarity of the AU with the Palestinian people in their legitimate search for an independent and sovereign state with East Jerusalem as capital.”
Palestinian political factions expressed their united opposition to Trump’s plan and welcomed Ramaphosa and Mahamat’s comments Addis Ababa.
Palestine solidarity activists across the continent also reacted positively to the AU’s condemnation of the Trump deal.
“The so-called deal of the century is nothing but a one-sided load of trash,” said Ras Mubarak of the Ghana Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).
“It is a war crime and cannot be accepted as a basis for achieving lasting peace between the Palestine and Israel,” said Robson Musarafu of Zimbabwe Friends of Palestine.
“This is the sensible position that African countries individually must take,” said Moeti Mohwasa secretary-general of the Botswana National Front and head of communications of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
Some activists, however, were frustrated by the contradictions between the strong words of the AU and the actions of its individual member states.
“The AU consistently condemns Israeli violations of international law and human rights. African countries call out Israel by supporting AU statements but then go back home and develop strong relations with the Netanyahu regime. Statements lacking practical measures to give substance to words will not work. African leaders must give the Palestinians more than nice words,” said Johannesburg-based writer, Suraya Dadoo.