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South Africa: Rhodes University rallies for Gaza journalists

At South Africa's Rhodes University, calls for academic boycott of Israel over Gaza
5 min read
South Africa
31 January, 2024
Lecturers, professionals, students and members of other faculties and civil society gathered on the university's campus in Makhanda in solidarity with Gaza
Many vigils across South Africa are taking place while the Israel v South Africa was under scrutiny in the ICJ [Joseph Chirume]

South Africa's prestigious Rhodes University, alma mater of Nelson Mandela's grandson, hosted a vigil in solidarity with Gaza over the weekend, days after the unprecedented success in the country's genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, as the post-apartheid African nation emerges as a leading ally of Palestinian self-determination in the world.

Journalism lecturers, professionals, students and members of other faculties and civil society gathered on the unversity's campus in Makhanda ( Grahamstown) the Eastern Cape province of South Africa in solidarity with Gaza and at least 122 journalists who have been killed during the current Israel war on the besieged enclave.

One notable speaker at the vigil was prominent journalist and lecturer at the university’s journalism department, Anna Majavu.

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Majavu is no stranger to Palestinian struggle and  worked in the occupied territories for three years as a media activist in the Palestinian led International Solidarity Movement. Majavu called for Rhodes University and other institutions of higher learning in the nation to instate an academic boycott of Israel.

Majavu told the gathering, “Israel is an apartheid state.I witnessed this for myself. Israel has set up a system of total segregation. The Palestinians are forced to use different roads, different schools,different hospitals [from Jews]. They have no freedom of movement,unlike the Israelis".

"They have to carry a dompas known as a hawiyya [ID card]", she added, in reference to racist pass laws under the white apartheid regime in South Africa.

Majavu said Israel has been targeting the Palestinian and Arab media professionals for a long time.

Two Palestinian journalists were killed in  Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip this week, according to Palestinian news agency Wafa, pushing the total number of reporters killed by Israel since 7 October to 122.

“This genocide is unfortunately just the tip of an iceberg. Before it is over, many tens of thousands of Palestinians will have been killed by Israel, Gaza will be no more and Israel will move onto ethnically cleansing  the West Bank next,” said Majavu.

Students and academics gathered at Makhanda's Rhodes University solidarity with all journalists who have been killed during the current Israel war on Gaza [Joseph Chirume]

Majavu called for transparency and objectivity when journalists are reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Majavu explained, “As journalist, we need to stand against the colonial framing of news about Palestine-Israel,where Israel is always right and Palestine is always wrong, where Palestinian news is always said to be questionable.We must, as journalists support our Palestinian colleagues 100% and think of ways we can support them practically.

“We must also start writing seriously in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions" movement.


Rhodes University Vice Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela urged the Western allies of Israel to act decisively to stop the war in Gaza.

“The Netanyahu regime needs to know that they can kill the Palestinians, but they can not extinguish their flame and passion for freedom,for justice and for human dignity. This evening, we join millions of freedom loving people across the length and breadth of our country to raise our collective voice against the deliberate and targeted killing of  journalists and other media workers by the Israeli army in Gaza. The killing of journalists whose only crime is to report the atrocities committed by the Israeli military in Gaza must stop,” said Dr Mabizela.

The Israeli army has so far killed more than 26000 Palestinians.

“The Palestinians are being subjected to the most inhuman conditions imaginable water, no food, no sanitation, no health services, no medicine, no electricity, just a humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in front of our eyes. The world is pretending that it is business as usual while the Palestinians are being decimated and the Palestinian territory is being obliterated from the face of this earth,” said Dr Mabizela.

He told the audience, “According to them, the life of a Palestinian does not matter. It is worthless, it is disposable, it is inconsequential, after all the Netanyahu regime characterizes Palestinians as human animals.You start by dehumanizing people, taking away anything that would remotely accord them human status. That is what the Netanyahu regime sees the Palestinians.”

Dr Mabizela castigated Western powers by saying that the innocent blood of those Palestinian babies was on their hands. He said western powers were failing to stop the deliberate and systematic annihilation of Palestinians in Gaza,but chose to look the other way and encourage and support the Netanyahu regime.

 “We call for an immediate cessation of the brutal, relentless and senseless bombing of Gaza and the killing and maiming of its people.

Future generations will ask what did you do when innocent babies, women and children were massacred?” said Dr Mabizela.

Rsidents of a small town in South Africa registered their disapproval of the conflict during a night vigil on 28 January 2024 [Joseph Chirume]

Deputy Head of the Journalism Department, Dr Kealebonga Aiseng told the New Arab that the massacre of media professionals in Gaza could have been prevented had Israel abided by international law.

“There are so many international statutes, bodies and organizations that are responsible for the protection of media personnel in all contexts. The UN has its own regulations on how media professionals should be protected. Each country has laws on how media personnel should be protected. Only if people could abide by these statutes, regulations and recommendations of how media professionals should be protected then we should not be in this situation.”

However, he said the killing of journalists in Gaza should not discourage aspiring reporters from joining the profession.

“Journalism is a calling. There has always been attacks on journalists, brutal killings, kidnappings, unlawful arrests, and unlawful prosecutions even here in Africa yet people continue to enroll every year. All these should not deter people from studying journalism".