The newly-elected and first woman president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), Zingiswa Losi, has called on the ruling African National Congress party to downgrade diplomatic relations with the state of Israel Thursday.

In Losi’s first public speech as Cosatu’s president, she urged the South African government to be “decisive” and downgrade the country’s embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office. The move would follow South Africa’s decision to indefinitely withdraw its ambassador from Tel Aviv following Israel’s use of lethal violence against Palestinians participating in the ongoing Great March of Return in the besieged Gaza that claimed the lives of 179 Palestinians since March.

Cosatu, which represents over 2 million workers in South Africa, has consistently expressed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that aims to end the occupation and demands the rights of Palestinians by promoting international economic, cultural, and diplomatic pressure on Israel.

Losi also called on the government to “push back against the corrupt advances” Israel is making at the African Union, a regional integration body that includes 55 countries. According to Losi, Israel’s attempt to gain observer status at the union is a strategy to improve its diplomatic relations with African states and influence their votes on United Nations resolutions that are critical of Israel.

South Africa’s National Coalition for Palestine, which represents over 40 civil society groups thanked Losi and Cosatu. “This is a way to express the South African people’s strong opposition to Israeli apartheid and its military occupation of Palestine,” spokesperson Edwin Arrison said.

teleSUR