Johannesburg: For the first time in contemporary South African history a number of South African cabinet ministers on Sunday night decided to go on hunger strike to show solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, South Africa's Independent Media reported.
The symbolic act is in support of the 1,100 Palestinian political prisoners who are on their 29th consecutive day of a hunger strike that began on April 17, in protest against detention without trial, solitary confinement, abuse by prison officials, denial of access to lawyers and families, and inadequate medical care.
The prisoners have only been consuming salt and water, and many are now in a seriously compromised state of health.
"What the Palestinian political prisoners are going through reminds me of our own struggle against apartheid, as we used hunger strikes as one of the instruments to fight the system," Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told Independent Media.
"I am concerned about the prisoners going without food for so many days as it will be affecting their internal organs, and could lead to death," he added.
Among those members of Cabinet who are set to join the hunger strike are Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Aaron Motsoaledi, Ayanda Dlodlo, Naledi Pandor, Rob Davies, Ebrahim Patel, Nomaindia Mfeketo, Buti Manamela, Enver Surty, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Fatima Chohan, John Jeffery and Bongani Mkgoni.
Winnie Mandela, who has often been called "Mother of the Nation," told Independent Media that her wish is that "We sit and think of all those mothers who are going on a solidarity hunger strike for their sons in Israeli jails, who have struggled for so long for the liberation of Palestine."
At the age of 86, Robben Island veteran Laloo Chiba is determined to participate in the hunger strike.
"I am convinced that those who support the Palestinian struggle will be willing to sacrifice their meals for 24 hours to boost the morale of our comrades in Palestine who have been without food for almost a month," Laloo Chiba has told the nation.
There are 6,500 political prisoners currently being detained in Israeli jails, over 500 of them held in administrative detention, which is equivalent to South Africa's detention without trial.
At least 300 children are being held, some as young as 13, and in the past year alone, Israel has arrested more than 400 Palestinians for social media posts.