March 15, 2024 | Flash Brief

South African Foreign Minister Vows to Arrest Returning Israeli Soldiers

March 15, 2024 | Flash Brief

South African Foreign Minister Vows to Arrest Returning Israeli Soldiers

Latest Developments

South Africa will arrest its nationals who fight alongside the Israeli military, Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said on March 10. Speaking at a Palestine solidarity event, Pandor, a senior African National Congress (ANC) official, said, “I have already issued a statement alerting those who are South African and are fighting alongside or in the Israeli Defense Force: We are ready. When you come home, we are going to arrest you.” Pandor also called for South Africans to protest at the embassies of countries she called Israel’s “five primary supporters” — a likely reference to the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and others.

Relations between Israel and South Africa have deteriorated since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. South Africa has generated a case against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) falsely accusing Israel of genocide against the Gazans. In December, South Africa’s foreign ministry warned citizens and permanent residents who had joined or were planning to join the Israeli army that they could face prosecution if they were not granted permission to do so under South Africa’s arms control laws. The ministry also warned that it could strip dual citizens of their South African citizenship. The country has a Jewish population of approximately 70,000, including dual Israeli-South African citizens.

Expert Analysis

“South Africa’s ruling ANC party, facing electoral defeat, is transparently trying to distract the South African people from its massive corruption, which has reportedly included the looting of billions of dollars from the South African treasury. Thanks to ANC corruption, 27.5 percent (5.8 million) of South Africa’s children are stunted due to malnutrition. South Africa’s citizens suffer through daily power blackouts of up to 12 hours, the lack of running water for days at a time, and one of the world’s worst-performing school systems. The South African people deserve better than the ANC’s massive corruption and shameless hypocrisy.” Orde Kittrie, FDD Senior Fellow

“Pandor and South Africa’s government have been among Hamas’s greatest supporters, blaming the Jewish state for Hamas’s attacks and serving as the terrorist group’s lawyer at the ICJ. Now, Pretoria is turning its sights on South Africa’s Jewish citizens.” David May, FDD Research Manager and Senior Research Analyst

South Africa’s Growing Ties With America’s Adversaries

Under the ANC and Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidency, South Africa has bolstered ties with Iran, Russia, and China despite benefiting from duty-free exports to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act and receiving various forms of development aid. South Africa has been a member of the China- and Russia-led BRICS organization and hosted its 15th annual summit in Johannesburg. South Africa abstained from condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Ramaphosa parroting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s blaming of NATO for causing the war. In 2023, on the anniversary of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, South Africa hosted Russia and China in naval exercises.

Iran and Its Proxies

Pandor visited Iran and met with President Ebrahim Raisi on October 22, shortly after the Iran-backed Hamas brutally attacked Israel by air, land, and sea. In January, Iran congratulated South Africa for its ICJ case against Israel. During a January 26 phone call between Ramaphosa and Raisi, the two leaders vowed to improve and expand bilateral relations, with Ramaphosa calling Iran a “true and reliable friend.” Ramaphosa and the ANC allowed the Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas to turn South Africa into a base for fundraising and network-building, led by the Muslim Judicial Council and South African branches of the Al-Quds International Foundation and the Al-Aqsa Foundation — three organizations tied to the pro-Hamas South African Muslim community leader Ebrahim Gabriels.

Stop bailing out South Africa’s corrupt leaders,” by Orde Kittrie

South Africa Again Attacks Israel at the International Court of Justice,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas’ South African Support Network,” by David May


International Organizations Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War