Palestinian Authority denies Maimane planned to visit

A Palestinian flag flies at a pro-Palestinian rally in Gauteng. Photo by Ihsaan Haffejee

The Palestinian embassy in South Africa has refuted the claim by opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), that its leader, Mmusi Maimane had planned trip to Palestine while visiting Israel, saying it only became aware of the visit through South African media.

Last week, Maimane’s spokesperson, Mabine Seabe, spoke to Redi Tlhabi on Radio 702, defending (or attempting to defend) the DA leader’s decision to visit Israel and pose in that picture with the country’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Maimane on ‘fascinating’ trip to Israel while ambassador punts on SA government radio

The interview went really badly, as everyone quickly realised that Seabe was avoiding the real questions and using a weak defence that the visit was “to look at the situation first hand, with both and Israeli and a Palestinian perspective”.

According to Seabe, the outrage against the DA has been one-sided. “People have been focusing on the fact that we went to Israel when we have been to Palestine as well, to understand their grievances. It would be irresponsible for us to make the position and articulate the position without having all the facts on the table,” he said.

Seabe said that Maimane had met with the Israeli leader, and was meant to have also met Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas, until he cancelled at the last minute. From the DA’s perspective, this seems like bad luck, right? Well, the cancellation makes more sense when you realise that no meeting with Palestinian officials had actually been planned after all. What was Seabe saying about being irresponsible?

Shame, Abbas didn’t even know what was happening. Seabe said that though Maimane hadn’t met Abbas due to the “cancellation”, he had spoken to officials of the Palestinian Authority (PA). But the embassy statement contradicts that by stating that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had said that none of the PA officials had actually met or planned to meet Maimane.

According to the statement: “Media reports and statements by the DA delegation make no reference to actual names of Palestinian Authority officials or what titles/offices they hold.”

Palestinian Embassy statement

What do we make of this? An official statement by the Palestinian embassy refutes the official statement by the leading South African political opposition party. Is the DA enjoying and succumbing to the world’s political descent into a post-truth reality? Or did someone just mess up planning the trip? Either way, the DA’s not looking good right now.

UPDATE: The DA has since released another statement, informing whoever is listening to them that they had, in fact, confirmed a meeting with President Abbas and informed the South African embassy in Ramallah.

“We did not inform the Palestinian Authority embassy in South Africa before our visit, we were not required to do so as South Africans do not require visas in order to visit the region. We communicated directly with the President’s office.”

The statement went on to say that Maimane had visited the territories, met various activists and refugees and many prominent members of the region. And, President Abbas had actually cancelled the meeting due to a scheduling conflict, with no available replacements for Maimane to meet with. The party also provided the evidence of correspondence with Abbas’ office, and stated that they intend on following up with the Palestinian Embassy to discover who had issued their statement that the DA had not met with officials. Seems legit, but as a political leader, why not inform a state embassy about a plan to visit that state?

Interestingly, the DA had also included information of the discovery that the South African Department of Water Affairs had visited Israel in November 2016, without visiting Palestine at all. Seems our current government isn’t that keyed up on the situation either, despite their gloating.

And about the DA policies? “We remain committed to a two-state solution and believe that South Africa should play a much more constructive role in bringing the conflicted parties together to talk and negotiate a peaceful settlement.”

Featured image by Muhammed Abraar Khan