Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola has been credited as the brains behind the South African government’s successful application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to force Israel to account for genocide acts against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Sunday World learnt that Lamola stepped in after the government asked the international law bodies to prove that they are for justice; otherwise, their legitimacy would come under question.
The country was then contemplating pulling out of the Rome Statute, but “Lamola came up with an alternative strategy”.
“Justice [department] was solely responsible for starting the legal action,” said the insider, adding that it was unfair that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation was claiming the glory alone.
Lamola’s spokesperson, Chrispin Phiri, confirmed that the minister initiated the move, but said their public comments would be limited to the legal aspects of the matter.
Regarding Al Jazeera’s report that Gaza’s Health Ministry says 174 Palestinians were killed and 310 wounded as Israel intensified bombings even as the ICJ ordered steps to prevent acts of genocide, Phiri said: “Orders of the ICJ are binding; all parties must comply with them. In terms of the court order, South Africa will monitor Israel’s actions and assess them against the report that Israel is required to submit to the court in due course.”
Sunday World also learnt that the SA government was on high alert at the OR Tambo International Airport on Friday, with the South African National Defence Force seen on site conducting monitoring activities.
The presence of soldiers at the country’s largest airport has been explained as a precautionary step. This is following uncertainty over Israel’s El Al airline’s decision to suspend flights to SA in response to the country’s ICJ application.
By late afternoon on Friday, speculation was rife that the soldiers had taken over the airspace and flights were suspended. However, government insiders and those on the ground dismissed the rumours.
“At no stage had they fully taken over due to any serious threat,” said a person with intimate knowledge of the developments. A person in the security cluster said the rumours were meant to “cause panic and rattle” South Africans, adding that it was likely that the CIA and other foreign spies were behind the disinformation. “We are command-ready even for their propaganda,” said the person.
On Friday, a landmark ICJ decision favoured South Africa’s request for provisional measures against Israel over its Gaza war. The court deemed South Africa’s accusation that Israel engages in genocide plausible, rejecting Israel’s request to dismiss the case.
“The court is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy unfolding in the region and is deeply concerned about the continuing loss of life and human suffering.
“Israel launched a large-scale military operation in Gaza by land, air, and sea, which has caused massive civilian casualties, extensive destruction of civilian infrastructure, and the displacement of the overwhelming majority of Gaza’s population.”
In its decision, the ICJ directed Israel to undertake all necessary measures to prevent further violations of the Genocide Convention. It also directed Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. The court emphasised that Israel must ensure its military forces refrain from acts of genocide and preserve evidence related to the alleged genocide.