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‘SA regains some lost moral authority at ICJ’

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Picture: Phill Magakoe / AFP / Taken January 11, 2024 – Front row, left to right: Türkiye’s Ambassador Aysegul Kandas, Egypt’s Ambassador Ahmed El Fadly, Lebanon’s Ambassador Kabalan Frangieh and Hanan Jarrar, the Palestinian Ambassador to South Africa were among foreign diplomats in the country who watched Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola, speaking on television and the proceedings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) during the first day of the hearing of the SA v Israel genocide case, in The Hague, The Netherlands, on Thursday. South Africa’s legal team was outstanding, and the clearly evidenced manner in which our respected lawyers presented the case to protect life and prevent further genocide, was compelling, the writer says.

By Saths Cooper

On Thursday, I joined many of you in watching the tour de force by the outstanding legal team representing South Africa’s case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to stop the genocide in Gaza.

The clearly evidenced manner in which respected lawyers – Dr Adila Hassim SC, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, Prof John Dugard SC, Prof Max Du Plessis SC, Ms Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh KC, and Prof Vaughan Lowe KC – presented the case to protect life and prevent further genocide, was compelling.

Similar to our rugby World Cup win in October last year, Thursday’s ICJ hearing truly made us proud to be South African, as we start a year that can be fraught with more decline and decay or be alive with the enormous possibilities that a country – standing together, finding one another across artificial barriers imposed by our imprisoned history, engaging vigorously on issues that impact us to find viable ways forward, ignoring the bleating of inane self-serving, inward-vested, self-important persons from scores of political parties and millionaires who wield extraordinary power; all promising us heaven, knowing that they will deliver us unto hell if we allow them to – can offer.

Most of us know that terrible geopolitics and tiresome and failing narratives – where oppression and dehumanisation assume a mindless, alluringly misguided and abnormal value – can once again so easily prevail post-the ICJ case. This will allow the perpetuation of crimes against humanity, and demonstrate that international forums work for the entitled and privileged few, against the rest of us.

A negative outcome at the ICJ will likely accelerate the need for the out-dated and incapacitated United Nations, which comprises 193 sovereign states, being held hostage by the ineffective Security Council – a product of World War II that ended on September 2, 1945 – to be reformed.

The five states (the US, UK, Russia, France, and China), who hold arrogated permanent veto status in the UN Security Council, manufacture, disseminate and glorify weapons and other products of mass and individual destruction, increase their numerous war bases across the globe, and control ill-gotten wealth from the time of slavery, colonisation and their sequelae. They are largely responsible for creating more poverty, marginalisation, illness and death of the majority on our fragile planet, made unsafe and steadily degraded by their actions. They wield enormous and undue influence over those who appear to be in power in the rest of our fragile planet.

Whatever the outcome at the ICJ, South Africa regained some of its lost moral authority after the demise – at least on paper – of apartheid that followed Nazism as a crime against humanity.

Open-minded people everywhere, who abhor war and its devastations, will ensure that our vulnerable and threatened world cannot continue in the third decade of the 21st century to remain apathetic, and so closely controlled, while giving the appearance of being liberating.

Continuing to find refuge in the marks of our origin, our limited socialisation and reliance on blatant peddlers of untruths who proliferate on social and mainstream media will further limit our ability to effectively mediate our complex world. This will only crush us further, and reduce our agency, which we cannot afford to delegate to anybody else.

We are who we make ourselves to be, despite our origins and circumstances, refusing to be restricted to anybody else’s biased image. We were born and should always be free, in mind, body and spirit, and should constantly strive for inner and outer peace. Anything else will render us ineffectual and powerless, causing us to lose hope in our innate ability to strive against adversity and be part of transforming our world into a peaceful and thriving one that we so desperately desire. We have that power. Let’s not lose it as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our hard-won democracy.

Professor Saths Cooper is president of the Pan African Psychology Union, a former leader of the Black Consciousness Movement and a member of the 1970s group of activists.