South Africans fighting in Mideast war will be prosecuted — Ntshavheni

08 November 2023 - 18:19
By Kgothatso Madisa
Smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from Israel, on November 3 2023.
Image: REUTERS/Amir Cohen Smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from Israel, on November 3 2023.

South Africans participating in the Middle East war are a threat to the interests of the republic and will be prosecuted.

This is according to minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, who said the law did not allow South Africans to fight under the flags of other countries.

South Africa's Prohibition of Mercenary Activities and Regulation of Certain Activities in Country of Armed Conflict Act prohibits mercenary activity and regulates the enlistment of citizens or permanent residents in other armed forces.

Ntshavheni was responding in her capacity as the state security minister to a parliamentary question on Wednesday about what action the government was taking against South Africans fighting alongside the Israeli Defence Force against Palestine.

The participation of South Africans who are either former soldiers or trained professionals or security companies are bound to create a diplomatic nightmare, she said, especially as the country has denounced the actions of the Israeli government.

Pretoria has declared the continued killing of Palestine people as genocide and has called on the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The war has so far claimed more than 10,000 lives, including women and children.

The South African government supports calls for a two-state agreement between the warring nations.

Ntshavheni said the State Security Agency (SSA) was aware of South Africans who were participating in the war without sanctions. She said the SSA was monitoring the war and was ready to provide to both the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the department of defence the identities of South Africans active in the war.

“The specific problem of South Africans joining the ranks of the Israeli Defence Force is receiving attention. However, this problem goes beyond Israel — it encompasses other conflicts where state and non-state players are involved in training and armed conflict,” she said. “Where sufficient evidence is available that breaches of the relevant law have occurred, affected people have to be prosecuted.”

ANC MP Jerome Maake said failure to quickly deal with this would mean the country was “producing” and “exporting dogs of war, or mercenaries” who are killing women and children and committing genocide in Gaza.

Ntshavheni emphasised it was not only in Gaza but that the problem also existed in other wars. She said there ought to be clear processes in place which would include regulating private security and intelligence organisations, access to arms and how citizens join defence forces of other countries.

The SSA remains ready to find and pass their details to relevant authorities for prosecution as it is illegal for South Africans to participate in military operations outside the country which have not been sanctioned, she said.

“The NPA will have to move with speed to prosecute those who are participating, not only in the Israeli war but in any other war and also for the defence department to attend to those who participate who are former soldiers in terms of their benefits.”

Such participation, she said, whether on the side of the Israeli government, Hamas or in any other war, was a threat to the country’s interests.