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Naledi Pandor denies supporting Hamas attack on Israel

Naledi Pandor denies supporting Hamas attack on Israel
Illustrative image: Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor. | The Hamas Flag. (Photos: Gallo Images / Victoria O’Regan | Kyra Wilkinson)

International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor confirmed that she did speak to the Hamas leader to discuss getting humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The fog of the war between Hamas and Israel, already pretty dense, got a lot murkier on Tuesday, 17 October.

South Africa denied an alleged Hamas statement thanking International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor for supporting Hamas’s brutal incursion into Israel when she spoke to the organisation’s leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Government officials first denied that Pandor had spoken to Haniyeh at all. Then Pandor’s office confirmed the call, but insisted she had only discussed how to get humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Meanwhile, 10 days into the conflict, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday this week first criticised Hamas for its “wanton attack on civilians in Israel” – while also repeating his earlier criticism of Israel for its bombardment of Gaza.

“While international law recognises the right of [the] oppressed and people who defend themselves to use arms as a means of struggle and defence, that right must be exercised within the bounds of the Geneva Conventions,” Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly newsletter.

“The images of the killing of civilians in Israel by Hamas just over a week ago and the ongoing killing of civilians in Gaza by Israeli forces goes against the tenets of international law, which prohibits the targeting of non-combatants, especially women, the aged and children,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa’s more even-handed approach appeared to be a response to sharp criticism, especially from some in South Africa’s Jewish community, of what it perceived as the government and the ANC’s one-sided position on the warfare, blaming the attack by Hamas entirely on Israel for its occupation of Palestine territory and offering no criticism of Hamas.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East Crisis News Hub

Some in the Jewish community was further outraged on Tuesday when it emerged that Pandor had spoken on the phone to Hamas leader Haniyeh and that Hamas had allegedly issued a statement thanking her for supporting its attack on Israel. 

“According to Hamas, Minister Pandor expressed support for its surprise attack on Israel in which Hamas targeted civilians and took hostages,” said a statement by Karen Milner, chairperson of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

“Minister Pandor has chosen a side in this war. She has engaged with an Islamist Jihadist Organisation and in so doing has dragged our country into very dangerous waters.”

Daily Maverick was unable to confirm if Hamas had in fact issued such a statement. One statement circulating on social media appeared to be fake as it referred to Pandor as “he”.

It said: “The head of Hamas’s political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, received a phone call from the South African foreign minister, where he confirmed South Africa’s support and solidarity with the Palestinian people and the people of Gaza in the Al-Aqsa, and expressed his sorrow and regret for what the Palestinian people experienced in Gaza.”

“The Al-Aqsa” appears to be shorthand for the “Al-Aqsa Flood” the name which Hamas gave to its incursion into southern Israel on 7 October.

“The head of the movement praised South Africa’s position and solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza and the efforts it is making to stop the crimes of the occupation and send aid,” the alleged Hamas statement continued.


The SA government first flatly denied that Pandor had called Haniye at all, according to reports. News24 said presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya told it that such a call from Pandor would have been impossible.

“There was no call. There wouldn’t have been a call… We don’t have a bilateral relationship with Hamas,” he was quoted as saying.

But shortly after that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) confirmed the call – though it insisted that Pandor had only discussed how to get humanitarian aid into Gaza and had not supported its attack on Israel. Dirco added that she had called Haniyeh at his invitation.

“The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) wishes to confirm that Minister Naledi Pandor received a request to call the Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh to discuss getting Humanitarian Aid to Palestine.

“During the call, and in line with the Government’s position, Minister Pandor reiterated South Africa’s solidarity and support for the people of Palestine and expressed sadness and regret for the loss of innocent lives both Palestinians and Israelis,” the statement read.

“Minister Pandor and the Hamas Leader discussed how to get the necessary Humanitarian Aid to Gaza and other parts of the Palestinian Territories. 

“The reports that Minister Pandor also offered support for the ‘Battle of Al-Aqsa Flood’ are untrue and meant to impugn the Minister and the Government of South Africa. 

“Minister Pandor’s call with the Hamas leader is in line with South Africa’s readiness to engage all interlocutors as part of facilitating dialogue to end the ongoing conflict.

“South Africa therefore calls on all sides to seize the opportunity for peace as opposed to violence, and for the international community to actively advocate for the implementation of its own International resolutions and establish a credible peace process,” it continued.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC calls for a halt on planned Israeli strike in Gaza

Palestinians protest against an Israeli strike on a hospital in Gaza, in the West Bank city of Nablus, 17 October 2023. According to Palestinian officials hundreds of people have been killed in an Israeli strike on a hospital in Gaza on 17 October. Earlier in the day, the Palestinian Health Ministry announced that more than 3,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 12,500 others injured since Israel launched retaliatory air strikes in the Gaza Strip. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) after Hamas militants launched an attack against Israel from the Gaza Strip on 07 October. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Alaa Badarneh)

Unanswered questions

A few questions remain unanswered. Like, what was the outcome of the discussion about delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza? As it happened, the European Union had just announced on Monday that it was launching an EU Humanitarian Air Bridge operation consisting of several flights to Egypt to bring lifesaving supplies to humanitarian organisations on the ground in Gaza.

“The first two flights will take place this week, carrying humanitarian cargo from UNICEF including shelter items, medicines and hygiene kits,” it said.

South Africa’s Gift of the Givers charity has been active in Gaza throughout the crisis, providing water and other humanitarian aid to the embattled residents.

In his newsletter, Ramaphosa wrote: “It has never been our nature as South Africans to reserve our empathy only for those with whom we share an ethnic, racial, religious or cultural affinity. As South Africans we have made it part of our national DNA to stand firm against all forms of prejudice including racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia.”

“The harrowing deaths of Israeli and Palestinian civilians is a shock to our collective humanity,” he added.

“The wanton attack on civilians in Israel and the siege of Gaza and the decision to forcibly expel a population of over one million people from Gaza, together with the indiscriminate use of force, lays the basis for further suffering and death on a huge scale.”

He concluded: “The only way to bring about peace is the fulfilment of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to human rights, dignity and nationhood.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Denise Smit says:

    The first comment from the ANC 11 days ago, was we stand by Palestine. Not a word of the atrocities in Israel as though it has not happened. Has any help been provided to Israel if they are so neutral? No word from the ANC or Government can be beleived. This is their apartheid lenses that is so convenient. Gift of the givers seem to have been communicating with Hamas even before Pandor. And got a lot of their staff and goods in? Denise Smit

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Just like Cyril the useless, treasonous, hypocritical and spineless, this so-called foreign minister has zero gravitas, lacks total credibility and respect, and is a master, like her duplicitous master, an expert at double-speak, lies and misinformation. It is beyond belief that our vile government cannot bring themselves to name and condemn the murderous, bestial and depraved Hamas whilst solely condemning Israel. We all want a durable peace in the Middle East, but being so completely biased, foolishly blind and supportive of one side only is stupidity personified. And Cyril wants to mediate – what an absolute moron!!!

    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      When you have cashed your checks, you’d better make sure that the taps remain open. As long as the russian roubles, chinese yuans and iranian rials keep flowing.

  • Cornay Bester says:

    Ramaphosa the “humanitarian” was absent during Marikana, absent in his dealings with the Ukranians and during the “struggles” the use of limpet mines and tyres was OK. AGOA & PEPFAR will be interesting….

  • Hidden Name says:

    Anyone else find the squirrel’s comments to be laughably untrue?

  • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

    And why is anyone surprised? And what else did anyone expect? Birds of a feather will find a way to flock together.

  • Libby De Villiers says:

    Pandor is demented. Plain and simple. She has no clue of what is going on around her. Does she even know where the Middle East is,or Palestine or Gaza or Israel for that matter? Has she any clue of the history and politics at play?
    Short answer; No. This, as most things, is too complicated for her to fathom.
    Cyril is is just his blundering self – no idea of consequences, responsibility or the gravity of the situation.
    They should both consider joining the circus.

    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      They are both already in the circus. She was considering applying for Miss SA

    • Greeff Kotzé says:

      Pandor holds two masters degrees, one from the University of Stellenbosch, and the other from the University of London. And amongst the variety of undergraduate degrees and diplomas she has been awarded, is one from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. You may not agree with her politics, but one cannot accuse her of being unintelligent — unless one somehow thinks those vaunted institutions are guilty of lax standards. This is the minister that got the SKA deal signed, sealed and delivered without a hitch when she was at Science & Tech. And has not had even whiff of corruption attributed to her during all her time in government.

      She is not one to seek much attention for herself or politic widely, and thus lacks a strong support base in the ANC, even though she is widely respected. Ramaphosa’s first choice for deputy president of the ANC in 2017, she had to quietly give way to Mabuza and expediency when it became clear that CR17 would not defeat the RET faction in the vote without The Cat’s support.

      Frankly, though, I suspect the role of Foreign Minister has been a challenging one for her. It is a very visible role and she is expected to communicate positions that often may not exactly align with her own — the NEC is setting the agenda. Still, I think she tries to navigate those stormy waters as best she can, communicating the position of the SAG, as a consummate public servant. Even though she’d rather be running the Dept of Education, her real passion.

      • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

        “…not one to seek much attention for herself or politic widely…”
        The Jewish community of South Africa would beg to differ

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    “Naledi Pandor denies supporting Hamas attack on Israel”

    So it’s officially confirmed then. She done it.

  • John Parkes says:

    Funny that Ramaphosa and Pandor condemn Israel for killing Palestinians yet they won’t condemn Putin’s Russia for their wonton killing and destruction in Ukraine!

  • Eberhard Knapp says:

    The October 7th attacks by terrorists, callous murderers, mentally deranged butchers of civilians are amongst the most evil and disgusting massacres committed in recent decades!
    Which should, however, not allow anyone to believe that Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (aka Westbank) and the Gaza Strip are being treated in any manner which one could possibly consider to be “civilised”! In 1947 mostly European and American
    Nations granted Arab-owned territory to the Zionist Movement (who gave them the right to do that?) – although the Arab Members of the UN warned that war would follow!
    Israel went on to grab more and more land – and now controls around 85% of “Palestine” (incl. areas B an C of Westbank). Gaza has been the biggest open-air prison since 2007 – people live in abject poverty in misery – they are forbidden to exit the Strip! In Westbank the IDF and – recently – settlers have brutalised Palestinians since 1948! Incessantly, daily. The Israeli Military (IDF) conducts daily / nightly raids, arrest people without warrant and at will, shoot civilians, Look at west-bank-spike-israeli-killings-palestinian-children. An International Journalist (Shireen Abu Ashley) was assassinated.
    But – nobody cared about those victims. And every murdered Palestinian gave birth to two, three – many angry youth, people without a future.
    Remember our own history – Biko, Mahlangu, the Cradock 4, Amanzimtoti… Today: honoured veterans of the struggle!

    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      English is such an interesting language – they say you can safely ignore everything before someone says “but” or “however”.

      • Errol T says:

        Yes, English is an interesting language. For instance, the Cambridge Dictionary defines “but” as, among other things, “But is used to connect ideas that contrast.”.

        Eberhard Knapp was connecting two contracting ideas. “Hamas attacked Israel, BUT Israel has been repressing, abusing, displacing, disowning and victimizing Palestinians for 75 years”. Now, go ahead, ignore everything before the “but”.

        By the way, “they say” is not a real reference for grammar and/or language.

        • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

          Not much nuance to your understanding. That’s exactly what I did – ignored everything he said before “but”. Got the rest of what he said loud and clear. Similar to him (and probably you), starting his sentences with “Some of my best friends are Jewish but …”

    • Ben Harper says:


  • Alexis Kriel says:

    the ANC won’t get the Jewish vote in South Africa. This is only an attempt to pacify Jewish business. We know where the ANC stands on the Palestinian issue – it was very blatant when Ramaphosa first spoke on the issue and chose to wear the Palestinian keffiyeh and wave a Palestinian flag. Let’s not forget how this started. Israel was just about to sign a diplomatic deal, when Hamas launched a horrific attack on innocent Israeli citizens. Their strategy was to disrupt the deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, that would have brought an untold fortune in aid to the region – and was a step towards stabilising the Middle east and would, no-doubt, have included massive aid for the Palestinians and probably Palestinian statehood.

  • Cyril please keep your opinion to yourself. When will you and your government realize that you have zero credibility in the international arena. Who can respect the opinions of blatant criminals? Seriously Cyril!

  • Elizabeth Christie says:

    Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

  • Vas K says:

    “South Africa denied an alleged Hamas statement thanking International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor for supporting Hamas’s brutal incursion into Israel when she spoke to the organisation’s leader Ismail Haniyeh.” This presents an interesting dilemma: do we believe the most despicable terrorist in the world or the simple mind who actually decided to speak to the most despicable terrorist in the world?

  • Mike Walwyn says:

    If Pandor’s conversation with this man was squeaky clean and above board, why did Dirco at first deny that it ever took place?

  • Kirsten du Toit says:

    Palestinians protest against an Israeli strike on a hospital in Gaza, in the West Bank city of Nablus, 17 October 2023. According to Palestinian officials hundreds of people have been killed in an Israeli strike on a hospital in Gaza on 17 October. Earlier in the day, the Palestinian Health Ministry announced that more than 3,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 12,500 others injured since Israel launched retaliatory air strikes in the Gaza Strip. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) after Hamas militants launched an attack against Israel from the Gaza Strip on 07 October. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Alaa Badarneh) Fake news and inflammatory, irresponsible too.

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