Hamas officials joined members of Nelson Mandela’s family in laying wreaths at a statue of the statesman and Nobel Peace Prize winner in South Africa on Tuesday to mark the 10th anniversary of his death.
Former Hamas government minister Basem Naim is in South Africa as part of a delegation and joined Mr Mandela’s grandson, Mandla Mandela, and others at the ceremony at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the seat of the South African government.
South Africa has been vocal in its support of the Palestinian cause for years and has strongly criticised Israel over its response to the October 7 attacks by Hamas.
South Africa has previously compared Israel’s actions in Gaza to its own past apartheid system of racial oppression.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party, which Nelson Mandela once led, voted in favour of a motion in Parliament last month to close the Israeli Embassy in South Africa and cut diplomatic ties because of the war in Gaza.
The motion called for ties to be cut until a permanent ceasefire.
The motion passed with a large majority but needs to be enacted by President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has criticised Israel but also condemned Hamas for its attack on Israeli civilians that sparked the war.
Mandla Mandela is an ANC lawmaker and has been hosting Mr Naim and other Hamas officials in South Africa.
They joined a pro-Palestinian march in Cape Town last week and attended a conference in Johannesburg organised by Mandla Mandela in support of the Palestinians.
Nelson Mandela died on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95. South Africa’s support for the Palestinian cause is one of the former president and anti-apartheid fighter’s legacies after he compared the plight of black South Africans under the apartheid regime to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
But Mr Mandela also visited Israel in 1999 after the end of his term as president and attempted to improve ties.