Tennis (illustration)
Tennis (illustration) iStock

South Africa's Sports Minister Thulas Nxesi will boycott an upcoming Davis Cup tennis match against Israel.

The event, organized by Tennis South Africa (TSA) will be held in Pretoria on February 2 and 3. The African News Agency (ANA) reported that Nxesi’s decision to boycott the event follows a letter sent to him by several anti-Israel South African organizations and the personal humiliation he says he experienced in 2012 when he was refused entry into Israel.

“I would actually have loved to attend the Davis Cup but given the concerns that activists and fellow South Africans are raising regarding the presence of an Israeli team I believe that it would not be proper for me to attend,” said Nxesi in his response to a letter sent to him by BDS South Africa, National Coalition 4 Palestine, SA Jews for a Free Palestine, Palestine Solidarity Alliance and the Wits University Palestine Solidarity Committee.

“I myself have experienced Israeli discrimination and occupation when I was denied entry to Palestine in 2012,” he claimed. “In response to this and other practices by the Israeli regime against the Palestinians, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many other notable South Africans, have called on the world to support the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.”

“This call for BDS is increasingly supported by progressive Jewish Israelis who remind us of our own icon, Joe Slovo, who, while he was Jewish, dissociated himself from the practices of the Israeli regime,” said Nxesi, according to ANA.

BDS South Africa released a statement in response saying they welcomed Nxesi’s decision to boycott the upcoming tennis match.

TSA has distanced itself from the political divide, noted ANA.

“The event has evoked a variety of views, from different groups within our society. For this reason, we would like to clarify our position,” said TSA in response to a letter sent to it by rights groups.

“TSA, along with 200 other countries globally, is an affiliate of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and participates in the Davis Cup – the World Cup of Tennis – on an annual basis,” it added.

“One of the ITF’s key objectives for this competition is to grow the sport of tennis, and to do so without discrimination on the grounds of color, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, age, sex or religion. The ITF believes that sport should be used as a unifying element between athletes and nations,” said the organization.

Anti-Israel sentiments remain prevalent in South Africa, where the ruling the African National Congress (ANC) party recently called for the downgrading of the South African Embassy in Israel due to what it said was the “lack of commitment from Israel on Palestine.”

The government in South Africa has frequently accused Israel of applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Palestinian Arabs. One such example was when the ANC party proposed new rules regarding dual citizenship meant to stop South African citizens from joining the IDF.

In another example, the county’s Foreign Minister slammed Israel's plans to build new homes in Jerusalem, saying she was “losing sleep” over the size of “Palestine”.