According to a senior official in Jerusalem the reason that the minister’s visa request was turned down was because he intended to pass through Ben-Gurion International Airport for the purposes of visiting the Palestinian Authority, rather than visiting Israel and also because of Nzimande’s radically anti-Israel stance. The trip was supposedly intended to promote research collaboration between the University of Johannesburg and Birzeit University, following a visit to South Africa by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in November 2014.
The denial of the visa has prompted a furious war of words and threats of retaliation by Nzimande and his Department officials although, as yet President Zuma has not indicated his support for the proposed actions.
Nzimande who is also general secretary of the South African Communist Party claimed in the past that Israel was waging a “vicious campaign” against the Palestinians and called for South Africa to boycott Israeli imports in retaliation. He said that the Palestinians are being massacred for the crime of demanding the return of their land and self-determination. “This genocidal campaign must be condemned in the strongest terms possible,” he said.
Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman reacted on Facebook by attacking the South African government’s policy regarding Israel. He posted “South Africa is a country that suffers deeply from racism and violence. It would be best for the South African government and the Communist Party to desist from attacking and inciting against Israel, which is a glorious democracy that deals exceptionally well, while ensuring maximum human rights and international norms, with threats and terrorist elements which, had they been active in South Africa, would have caused a bloodbath in the streets.” He added “it’s no surprise that the South African Communist Party prefers the Palestinians over Israel, as like is attracted to like.”
A furious Nzimande has announced that he will be calling on all higher education bodies to cut ties with their Israeli counterparts. The state of South African education seems not to be a consideration.
Higher education has not been faring well under the ANC. According to a damning report by the country’s Council on Higher Education in 2013 only one in 20 black South Africans succeeds in higher education, and more than half who enroll at university drop out before completing their degree. Black students comprise 78 percent of all students enrolled in higher education. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Information Technology Report 2015, ranked South Africa close to last – 139 out of 143 countries – when looking at the overall quality of its education system. It was ranked last in the quality of mathematics and science education. It is clear that not much is being done to correct the poor performance as the country has had a consistently bad rating since 1995. Israel is one of the world’s top scoring nations.
In April, 2014 Nzimande, speaking at the University of Zululand, praised President Zuma and said it was appropriate to honor him for his contribution education in the country. (It has been alleged that Jacob Zuma who never even entered high school lied about his own meager education. Where he claimed to have received an informal education from a lady with a Standard 4 qualification, new evidence allegedly proves that she only passed Standard 3).
This speech by Nzimande was just a month after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that Zuma and his family had improperly benefited from R246 million security upgrades at his private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal. In the same speech Nzimande stated that the reports of Zuma’s misappropriation of funds were actually “lies perpetuated by white people”.
Nzimande’s claims that Israel is running a genocidal campaign against the Palestinians is also somewhat hypocritical considering that the American organization, Genocide Watch has had the South African Government on their watch list since 2012 for Incitement to Commit Genocide against the small white minority.