TIMES LIVE reports that justice minister Ronald Lamola apparently wants the deaths of anti-apartheid activists Neil Aggett and Hoosen Haffejee to be re-investigated. Only time can tell if he is serious this time.
Lamola announced on Friday, according to the online daily, that he had requested the judges president of the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal divisions of the high court to each designate a judge to reopen the inquests in relation to the deaths in detention of the activists.
The justice department is reported to have said Lamola’s decision was in terms of Section 17(A) of the Inquest Act of 1959 and follows an application by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for the reopening of the inquests.
Readers may remember that Aggett was a doctor who died in detention in Johannesburg in 1982, aged 28. The inquest into his death held that no one was to blame. Yet another reason not to trust the apartheid-era justice system.
THERE is no evidence that the Ruperts were during the 1980s, for all intents and purposes, in favour of anything more than apartheid euphemism and cant — the shallow transformation which characterised PW Botha’s much-vaunted tricameral Parliament and which for a short time, allowed for separate houses of parliament for citizens classified as Indian and Coloured. This while maintaining a bantustan system which disenfranchised, de-emancipated and dispossessed black South Africans.
The families’s own submission to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission demonstrates a willful obfuscation of the truth, and despite elegant pleading, contains a number of half-truths and a strange anomaly. On the one hand, it is claimed that they were opposed to apartheid which they considered ‘an immoral, oppressive attempt at social engineering’ and consequently had chosen the path of ‘loyal resistance’ to ‘fight the system from within’, writing letters to NP officials stating that apartheid in its then form, was unsustainable since the Afrikaner was being crucified: “it is destroying our language, it is degrading a once heroic nation to be the lepers of the world.”
On the other, the submission, fails to explain what they were doing inside the system, in the first place, and thus why Rupert maintained a loyal membership of the National Party to the very end, refusing to break ranks by siding for instance, with the then all-white opposition Progressive Federal Party? A party which as its name suggested promoted a federal solution and held seats until 1989 when it became the DA?
Johann Rupert (JR) went so far as to claim at the TRC, that he was unaware of any financial contributions to the National Party, despite there being extensive evidence of his corporate involvement with the system. His assertions have not been tested in a court of law. This despite Remgro (former Rembrandt Group) being fingered in an apartheid bail-out scandal.
The letters between Anton Rupert and various National Party leaders such as PW Botha, all point to the fact that the Ruperts business partners included apartheid finance minister Owen Horward and titular head of the country, Nico Diedrichs. Far from advocating a ‘one-person, one vote’ democracy and majority rule, as Johann Rupert would like us to believe — which would have made him a champion of the cause and policies of the ANC and PAC — the truth is rather different.
The Rupert’s though critical of the policy of separate development, instead advocated a form of “Volkstaat” in the form of a Swiss Canton System, which would have kept large swathes of the country under white rule. The logical extension some might say to the policy of apartheid bantustans, and which would, in the Rupert’s view, have been maintained in comparison to the federalist position, a position which resulted in the system we have today.
In essence they had argued for a more refined version of the plans laid out by the infamous Rubicon speech of PW Botha, a proposal which would have maintained the boer republics of old, had it not been for the guarantees on property rights issued by the ANC.
This telling fact can be seen at pages 288 and 289 of Anton Rupert, a Biography by Ebbe Dommisse.
Johann has gone so far as to claim at the TRC and without any evidence, that he had the confidence of the BC leader Steve Biko, whilst he was head of student organisation SASO, but has shied away from quoting his own father on the subject of what was to be done about the situation. Significantly, JR dropped out of university to pursue a career in business and did not figure in university politics.
The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) on Monday said “Biko never even met Rupert and they have records of the Struggle icon, which will back this up.” Medialternatives has covered previous Rupert gaffes, such as his specious claims about being on the receiving end of Magnus Malan’s death squads.
To say the Ruperts were “openly critical of the apartheid system, both at home and abroad” as a current article on Wikipedia does, and that they have been lauded by President Thabo Mbeki for calling upon the Apartheid leadership to “do something brave” by creating a partnership with the black majority in the ’80s,” ignores the fact they were the financiers behind apartheid, and consequently demonstrated an absence of any tangible and practical support for democratic forces within and outside the country. Witness the sad fact of their proposed ‘canton model’, the self-same politics which produced the white enclave of Oranje.
One does not therefore, hear Johann Rupert taking any credit for this small and somewhat discredited achievement, and his submissions to the TRC as a cherry-picker of facts, surely need to be revisited, if only to set the matter straight. If anything JR, like his father, favoured a gradualist approach to the problem of loss of white minority power, preferring a plan which would have maintained the status quo indefinitely had it not been for the momentum of history which resulted in the CODESA negotiations.
Bear in mind that it was Verwoerd, the architect of grand apartheid who explained apartheid as simply ‘good neighbourliness’, and who like Rupert snr, was more than prepared to accept that all human beings are equal, so long as race segregation and partition of power could remain in place. The ‘separate but equal’ madness of the multiracialist school of thought, which epitomized the regime’s many racist adherents.
Neither completely ‘verlig’ nor totally ‘verkrampt’, as the Afrikaans terms of the day for liberal and conservative suggest, Rupert is better cast as himself, in an obscene privileged position, pulling the National Party purse strings as it were, whilst maintaining his own ill-gotten advantage — all-important brokers behind the apartheid system. An unmatched aegis without which nothing would have happened at the negotiating table.
Far from being allies of opposition politics as some would have it, nor positioned like myself and many of my fellow South Africans, within the internal and external freedom struggle, the Ruperts, were in reality part and parcel of the apartheid state apparatus to the very end, negotiating a deal, which resulted in an interim constitution and various ‘sunset clauses’.
In this respect they benefited immensely as kingpins, financiers and powerbrokers from the super-exploitation of labour which continued past 1994, so too the sanctions busting era, which occurred alongside the dirty tricks campaigns against opposition leaders and the likes of Winnie Mandela. After their successes in global financial circles, to their own benefit and the benefit of the NP, the Ruperts bailed out apartheid’s banks to form Amalgamated Banks of SA, giving the lie to claims made about the lack of money available for such an endeavor.
The Rupert hagiography, refers to humble beginnings in the Tobacco industry. JR, is current chair of several JSE listed companies, including Richemont, Reinert, Remgro and Mediclinic. The truth behind the apparent success — the family succeeded in extracting capital garnered from the Rupert’s cosy relationship with the state, (State Capture 1.0) and with the help of Horward and Diederichs, achieving the truly remarkable — sequestering apartheid slush money in Switzerland, while granting an unfair advantage when it came to the post-democratic period.
This is quite the opposite of the strange claim that there were ‘no sweetheart deals’ with the regime.The Ruperts are named in the CIEX report commissioned in 1997 to investigate the theft of R26 billion of state money during apartheid.
In 2017 Medialternatives exposed a cartel active within South Africa’s media, the result of a cross-networked entity with Rupert at the helm, and with assets comprising investments in Remgro, Kagiso, Caxton and Naspers. The resulting corruption and influence peddling, included the rigging of a 2010 labour case involving Media24 — a company which had previously attempted to gag me from speaking out about racism, race profiling and de facto newsroom segregation at its community newspapers division.
The case remains unresolved.
FOR DECADES Naspers was during the apartheid years, an incubator for racist government, producing no less than three Prime Ministers. PW Botha, HF Verwoerd and DF Malan. All had the backing of the corporation formed by the Broederbond. With the appointment of a new local CEO, following a listing in Amsterdam, the company has once again attempted to rebrand itself.
Unfortunately, the focus on assets avoids questions as to why Naspers was a ‘traditional sinecure for the national party’, providing funding, propaganda and support. This is a lot more involvement than today’s media spin-doctors would have us believe.
Naspers collaboration with apartheid is given short thrift by the likes of Joseph Cotterill of BDlive, who believes the group was simply “a publisher once condemned as a mouthpiece of the apartheid regime in SA .” These reports all fail to mention ongoing litigation against the company, and continued opposition to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
A more balanced view of the campaign against the commission can be found in a review of Ton Vosloo’s biography “Across Boundaries” by veteran journalist and former Mail & Guardian editor Anton Harber.
Lizette Rabie also finds time to present her case in support of the so-called ‘TRC rebels”, a group of former apartheid collaborators who succeeded in turning themselves into ‘conscientious journalists” while ignoring the plight of those in the struggle press, recipients of Naspers dirty tricks.
But according to Hennie van Vuuren, the company was also a ‘tap root of the National Party’.
So what exactly is going on?
After 1994, the corporation found itself on the back foot politically-speaking. Sanctioned by the TRC for its failure to come clean over its role during apartheid, but with PW Botha avoiding a subpoena to appear, the company grudgingly introduced a BEE scheme, appointing Jakes Gerwel of the President’s office to the board, alongside Francois Groepe.
And so the game of political chicanery continued.
With Groupe moving on to the Reserve Bank, Chairperson Gerwel passing on in office, and the company still attempting to gag me for speaking out about racism, race profiling and de facto newsroom segregation at its then community newspapers division.
The resulting anti-Semitic and anti-Secular counter-case, was more than simply a corrupt and unfair proceeding before the labour court of South Africa. Nothing short of a racist miscarriage of justice involving a Naspers business associate and labour broker presiding over a matter involving his own client, while I was restrained from calling witnesses. The corruption is currently the subject of an as yet unresolved complaint to the Judicial Services Commission.
Two days after filing a further Equality Court complaint regarding the Group’s ongoing campaign against the Truth & Reconciliation Commission and thus the trashing of the report by Naspers council, then Group CEO Esmerie Weideman issued an apology to the heavens. The 2015 statement references one case-limited example of a single employee of colour, Conrad Sidego, who had experienced problems with separate facilities.
The EC case is currently in abeyance pending an appeal of a decision by Legal Aid SA not to grant legal aid where a substantial injustice would result from my not possessing an attorney in the matter.
If you wish to fund my action against LASA, you can do so on BackaBuddy.
Needless to say the latest racist decision by the High Court, once again trivialising the TRC report, (‘too long to read’, according to AJ Martin) in the process, creating an exclusion of the Preamble to our Constitution, cannot hope to gain any approval under our nation’s Constitutional dispensation.
With pressure mounting for change, and with a sophisticated new share structure that preserves white privilege, in the process moving the now multinational operation out of the country, Naspers mandarins have once again dealt out a hand that seeks to gain influence within South Africa’s political sphere.
The appointment of no less than Ramaphosa Foundation board member Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa to manage Naspers South African operations, echoes the groups earlier effort to inveigle Mandela. This while Ramaphosa is on the ropes following a report by the Public Protector.
Time can only tell whether the strategy of co-opting the incumbent President, while maintaining apartheid profits within the company, (now outside the country), will succeed in burying the TRC Final Report once and for all.
IT WAS June of 1991, the apartheid government had just unbanned political parties such as the ANC and PAC, exiles were returning to the country, and negotiations towards a new democratic dispensation were in full sway. The First National Conference on Environment & Development, organised by myself and my colleagues from the Cape Town Ecology Group (CTEG) and World Council on Religion and Peace (WCRP) was being held at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).
It was here that the campaign to include sustainable development in our country’s new constitution came to a head, with a mandate to ‘ecologise politics and politicise ecology’.
Solly Skosana of the PAC was of the view that ‘land apartheid had not disappeared and that a constituent assembly was the only mechanism in which environmental concerns over land distribution would be able to be addressed.’
There was consensus among delegates that unequal land distribution was a major cause of environmental problems in South Africa and that the land itself needed protection under the law.
Speaking on behalf of the ANC, Cheryl Carolus criticised the lack of political involvement by environmentalists in the past and made the point that her decision to get involved in politics had ‘arisen out of a desire to empower herself and to regain control over her environment.’
The issue of workers’ involvement in environmental issues was taken up by Nosey Peterse of the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) who told delegates: “You can talk about environmental degradation but while you talk workers are losing their jobs because of environmental degradation.”
It was here too that I stood on a podium alongside Mike Kantey of Earthlife Africa, Ebrahim Rasool of WCRP and Julia Martin of CTEG, with delegates from across the political spectrum, to rally against apartheid while calling for a future in which the needs of future generations would not be compromised by the demands of our own generation.
As the conference drew to a close, we had no inkling of the dire consequences our nation would be facing today, with water shortages, air pollution and threatened ecosystems, nor did we realise back then, what it would take. Our actions back then simply introducing article 24 of our Constitution, enshrining Earth Rights, to impact and affect climate change and the lives of those yet to be born.
It was thus a twisted and tortuous politics which saw successive appointments of environmental ministers, from then Minister of Environment General Magnus Malan, to Dawid de Villiers, Pallo Jordan, Valli Moosa, Marthinus van Schalkwyk and Edna Molewa, each taking the credit for the groundbreaking inclusion of ‘ecological sustainable development’ in our nation’s constitution, and yet collectively responsible for the allied policies of the ruling party. Despite becoming the first country to include the environment in its bill of rights, the party proceeded to pave the way for mega coal projects, increasing of GHG emissions and lowering of air pollution standards.
You can read about the campaign to put Earth Rights into South Africa’s constitution here.
At the same time that the Mbeki administration was hosting the 2002 WSSD (the acclaimed “Earth Summit’ which produced very little of real substance) the ANC was promoting a crackpot policy sans physics which became known as ‘peak, plateau and decline‘. A neat phrase cooked up by the DEAT to describe a strange new political compromise between our constitutional imperatives, ‘the needs of the future’, and the diktat of the fossil fuel industry, in particular the opportunities (read curse) presented by our own country possessing abundant supplies of coal.
Thus when Min Gwede Mantashe opened a new colliery, while myopically claiming: “our vast coal deposits cannot be sterilised simply because we have not exploited technological innovations to use them,” he was articulating this self-same policy. It describes the apparent trade-offs to be made — ramping up our GHG in the short to medium term, so that we are on par with the West economically speaking, before reaching an abstract ‘plateau’, whereupon we will by some act of the imagination, decline our GHG profile (perhaps via slight of hand and creative accounting) — the introduction of a Carbon Tax, is yet unproven.
Every year, the time frame for the plateau and reduction of local GHG targets has been shifted, while the much vaunted Carbon Tax is slow on the uptake and still being implemented. The Climate Change Bill introduced in 2018, focuses on mitigation and adaptation as opposed to implementing a drastic about turn in energy policies. Bare in mind the Carbon tax is an economic charge which Greenpeace has said, will not be ‘effective enough and far from adequate’.
Every policy decision thus far made by the ruling party, has been on the basis of the bad maths of these mantras introduced without much scientific consensus, and there is no precedent.
After negotiating a COP-out deal at Paris, which has allowed our country to continue with business as usual — South Africa’s pledge under the Paris Climate Agreement is ranked as “highly insufficient” — we are left with a Promethean struggle involving several massive coal mega-projects versus the reality of today. At 510.2377 mtCO2e pa our GHG profile is currently on par with the UK, a country with a population of 66 million people, as we begin to exceed the West in air pollution. Our country has been criticised internationally for “ delaying the development of policies to cut emissions.”
It is thus with some sadness and poignancy that I read a letter addressed to our president and signed by some 50 local environmental organisations, demanding ‘an emergency sitting of Parliament to deliberate on the recently issued UN report on 1.5°C increase in planetary temperature and its implications for South African climate change policy.’
This while 300 kids marched from Parliament to the City Hall in Cape Town last Friday, to hand over a memorandum demanding government take “immediate action on the climate crises”. Following a mass demonstration on 15 March where thousands of school learners protested, calling on government to act against climate change. In various parts of the Free State, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, where “youth collectives are meeting to learn about climate justice and organise, “writes Alex Lenferna
“Outside of the Union Buildings, young people rallied and delivered a petition to the president calling for climate justice now.”
Instead of declaring a climate crisis, President Ramaphosa, has chosen to skedaddle and bamboozle with stats and an unhelpful allusion to the climate problem during SONA. The government clearly lacks any real programme to deal with the crisis. This is not the first time that the ruling party has attempted to colour itself with the revelry of the green movement.
Stating that the President’s ‘recognition of the climate crisis is the first step to fundamental change“, as a 17-year-old environmental activist Ruby Simpson does, is expecting a serial climate change denialist, to suddenly get science and find Gaia, because the reality is our nation’s policy of ‘peak, plateau and decline‘ is founded upon a tragic denial of the existential threats facing our planet and its people.
Regrettably, one can only express skepticism of presidential lip-service, uttered with pro-coal cynicism — successive ANC Presidents and their cabinets have shown themselves to ‘talk green, but walk with coal’. One has only to witness the abject failure of the President to address the detailed requirements of a ‘just transition’, and thus his startling refusal to acknowledge the implicit question of ‘whose justice?’
Without an immediate adoption of a climate emergency, articulated by the 2011 Durban Declaration, there can be no justice. And without a complete u-turn in our energy policies, there will be no future for our country.
READERS may be aware of the circumstances surrounding the hosting of an exclusive “Decolonising the Internet” conference in Cape Town.
A conference so exclusive that that it was not simply a well-funded invitation-only event, in the run-up to Wikimania Cape Town, but one which bizarrely excluded anti-apartheid activists — in the process failing miserably to include the very same persons referred to in its bold statements, cynically referring to ‘representivity, inclusivity, the marginalised and the local (see my letter to Douglas Scott, and my complaint to Wikimania).
The organisers still persist in claiming they were promoting “newly created alliances and networks, [working] together towards more diversity and inclusion in the experience of internet design, architecture, content, and governance” while further proclaiming: “We intend to dramatically change the way the internet represents the majority of the world.”
Exactly how this will ever be achieved by hosting closed door sessions dominated by ‘privileged white persons’ from the global North is still a mystery.
What the organizers did accomplish was some skilled (read manipulated) agenda-setting and box-ticking for the main programme’s half-baked keynote delivered by Dr Sean Jacobs, who parachuted in from New York to deliver an uneven address on the subject while claiming that Wikimania had done its homework on apartheid memory.
Witness Jake Orlowitz a Wikimania volunteer being interviewed by a clueless volunteer who ends her interview by stating: “you did all my work for me, I don’t even have to ask any follow up questions”.
The podcast is a nothing less than a puff piece for the closed-door fiasco, in which local activists were not informed by organisers that the event was being co-located by Wikimania, on an international programme held in Cape Town, which will be remembered for its failure to include a single session on apartheid memory.
Ditto Rhodes Must Fall.
Attendees were then bussed to Robben Island, and sites in D6 and local townships, without bothering to create a safe space for the very persons affected by apartheid separate development, and the latest round of academic exclusions on the nation’s campuses, nor given any other opportunity to air their views on the subject.
Orlowitz, much like so many megaphoned and amplified ‘male allies’ in the global women’s movement, proceeds to hog a debate on issues to do with developing world invisibility and ‘your’e not welcome’ implicit race bias, acknowledges its a ‘middle class hobby’, touches on issues to do with representation, in an 11 minute podcast published by ‘WhoseKnowledge‘ the apparent backers of the pre-conference.
Startling in that the obviously ‘white privileged male’ without a hint of irony, goes on to say ‘Wikipedia [is] struggling with inclusion’, ‘consistantly white men from the global North who do well .., and often who don’t see a problem’, “it’s not me, I’m not a part of it”.
Orlowitz claims his role is one of ‘using his privilege to raise awareness’ then bizarrely proceeds to speak on behalf of ‘folks who were born native and privileged’ as well as those who are ‘excluded from the system [but] ‘who carry so much knowledge’, before admitting, “I don’t even know what is missing”.
A point of view which rubbishes claims made by a member of the local Wikimedia Chapter, that the event was limited to ‘indigenes’.
Strangely Orlowitz calls systemic Wikimedia bias merely a ‘meme’; while claiming the decolonising pre-conference was inclusive of diversity and marginalised persons, but does not make any cogent argument for why the conference was closed.
That organisers wants to reproduce this closed model surrounding an online site famed for its apparent openness, is risible.
WhoseKnowledge is clearly one of many opportunistic organisations possessed of politically-correct do-gooder-speak, with all the resources but without the right model. Reverting to a previous era of closed and proprietary debate, is what is at fault here.
I therefore have no hesitation as a publisher and anti-apartheid activist, affected by Wikipedia deletions of apartheid memory, in once again rejecting the WhoseKnowledge organisation on the basis of ‘nothing about us, without us‘
DEFEND STATUS OF TRUTH & RECONCILIATION COMMISSION BEFORE THE COURTS
DEFEND THE PREAMBLE TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
I have less than one month in which to file an SCA appeal in terms of s17 (2) (b) against AJ Martin’s racist decision (CA18417/17) to not provide relief with regard to representation in a matter affecting the TRC and its Final Report.
The High Court decision literally agreeing with Legal Aid SA in first instance, that it ‘would take a long time to read the report’ and therefore it can be ignored, and also, in second instance, upholding validity of LASA chief officer‘s view that the matter has somehow ‘prescribed’ since the commission ‘wound up its work some time ago‘, is demonstrably racist.
Attacking the legal basis of the TRC, an inquiry into gross violations of human rights under apartheid, still a crime against humanity, for which there is no statute of limitations, trivialises the report, lowers its status before the courts and denigrates the memory of the victims and survivors. It is certainly contrary to our Constitution and its preamble which states, ‘recognising the injustices of the past …’ not to mention several statutes each one promulgated in order to prevent ‘repetitions of the past’.
The decision impacts and affects my case before the Equality Court of South Africa (EC19/2015) brought to defend the report against the vicious and racist attacks by Naspers/Media24 and thus failure to defend the law by the former Min of Justice, Michael Masutha. My not possessing an attorney at state expense as contemplated in the constitution, is a substantial injustice when it comes to the odious task of defending the TRC.
AJ Martin’s sloppy and incompetent decision is nothing less than racist double standards, since I have already been taken to task on a previous occasion during the proceedings of Lewis v Media24 (2010) for my not having ‘read the report’, in particular chapter 4, and thus according to Adv Kahanovitz SC, ‘knew who I was getting involved with when I joined Media24’, a racist organisation at the time, opposed to the TRC.
Kahanovitz SC further claimed that the report was a ‘public record’ to which I could not claim ignorance, at the same time that he claimed the commission was ‘simply a commission’, and the report, ‘simply a report’. AJ Cheadle, who admitted to presiding over a case involving his own client (and thus a judgement written up by the opposing party), then proceeds to state in his 2010 decision at para 98: ‘His evidence is unreliable because he is engaged in a campaign against the Respondent for its support of apartheid and its refusal to apologise for doing so before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.’
Now Martin declaims loudly from the bench that it is okay to simply ignore the report, echoing Kahanovitz SC earlier direction that the report should be ignored when doing so favours his client, but be upheld when it affects my own legal standing.
Not only did AJ Martin refuse to recuse himself from the High Court, Western Cape on Monday 20 May 2019, after this contradiction was pointed out to him, but he has had the audacity to claim his decisions and findings in the matter are somehow obiter (merely in passing), and also “Judges can make mistakes that is what superior courts are for, correcting error.” There also appears to be some confusion here as to whether or not the court has the requisite power to review decisions taken by a ‘national public entity’ and thus other schedule 3 entities such as boxing clubs. Martin then proceeded to deny me leave on the basis.
The determination amounts to an exclusion of the Preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, not to mention the Bill of Rights. The separation of powers is between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature, not the public sphere versus the judiciary and represents a new low so far as the justice system is concerned.
The calumny against the TRC Act is not surprising since the the High Court of the Western Cape still houses portraits of apartheid and colonial era judges. Albert van der Sandt Centlivres for instance, was the Chief Justice of South Africa from 1950 to 1957, and the result is an embarrassing racist rogues line-up, book-ended by a beaming portrait of current Judge President of the Western Cape, John Hlophe. Portraits of Centlivres et al deserve to be in a museum not the chambers of active judicial officers.
I urgently require assistance in filing my documents on appeal in Bloemfontein, failing which an appeal directly to the ConCourt. If I cannot retain an attorney to accomplish this, I will be required to travel to Bloemfontein and/Jozi. I am also required to furnish the SCA/ConCourt judges and parties with the transcripts and records of the proceedings, all of which costs money. Some four hours of transcription is required.
Please assist me in defending the TRC and its Final Report in the matter Lewis v Legal Aid SA CA18417/17. This matter affects similarly-situated individuals and is a major test of the foundation stones of our democracy.
NO TO HIGH COURT APARTHEID
NO TO RACIST DOUBLE-STANDARDS
THE argument that Israel represents the ‘Jews of South Africa’, often made by members of the SAJBD is as fallacious as the equal assertion that BDS and its leadership represent the diversity of Jewish history and culture, in particular the legacy of Jewish activists during the freedom struggle.
A letter by a US academic Judith Butler written to UCT and published by the Mail & Guardian, ironically refers readers to a committed Zionist and treason trialist, Arthur Goldreich, alongside a liberal supporter of Israel sovereignty, Helen Suzman. This in order to embroider upon an evolving work of fiction — the false analogy between the ongoing struggle of the Palestinians and our own country’s struggle against apartheid.
Butler maintains, that “BDS draws on longstanding traditions, some of which were importantly developed in the context of the struggle against apartheid”. While the two struggles may appear similar in mode at the surface, there are significant and important divergences, differences which we disregard at our peril.
For starters, the South African struggle was an epic battle against colonialism and white domination in support of democracy and secularism. Activists such as myself were pitted against a white regime which was theocratic, undemocratic and avowedly Christian in outlook.
Butler goes on to write: “Let us not forget the large numbers of Jews who have fought in social justice struggles, including the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa (Joe Slovo, Arthur Goldreich, Ruth First, Albie Sachs, Helen Suzman), who contest the radical inequalities that form the basis of Israel’s claim of Jewish sovereignty and its claim to maintain Jewish demographic advantage at all costs.”
The claims made with regard to Goldreich and Helen Suzman are instructive and bear greater consideration. A piece published by Benjamin Pogrund for the Helen Suzman Foundation states: “Use of the apartheid label and repeated references to “genocide” against Palestinians and denunciations of Zionism as “racism” are at best ignorant and naïve and at worst cynical and manipulative.”
Unlike the South African struggle where Jews enjoyed leadership roles, and where persons such as Joe Slovo were in many respects over-represented than other minority groups, both Fatah and Hamas have failed miserably to include Jews in top positions.
Palestinian claims about the alleged “Jewish race” share more in common with the racist objectives and malicious aims of the puritans of the Nationalist Party than the alleged non-racialism of the ANC. To reiterate, nations are not races.
Unlike the Palestinian struggle which lacks any meaningful document such as the Freedom Charter setting out winnable aims and objectives, civil rights for all, the South African situation is rather different, and thus the recipe for achieving a negotiated outcome and peace settlement in our own country was founded upon a winning constitutional formula.
BDS have failed time and again to canvas the opinion of persons either referred to as ‘Jews’ or self-defined as Jewish, in a skewed solidarity politics that ignores the problem of Jewish identity. Butler is only able to espouse her own views because other views and Jewish voices have been silenced by the BDS politburo.
Though Butler’s misguided rhetoric on anti-semitism is to be welcomed, let’s be forthright and stop beating around the bush, anti-semitism is open hostility towards secular Jewish identity.
Attempting to provide a non-violent and anti-racist veneer to a religious struggle in which both sides are informed by religious texts in a battle over the final status of Jerusalem, avoids the open inquiry and evidence-based empirical research that needs to occur if we are understand the many dimensions to the problem.
As a person whose Jewish identity has become the subject of a racist legal inquisition in South Africa at the behest of the perpetrators of apartheid, I therefore do take exception to the banning of opinion and obliteration of independent voices outside of these two diametrically opposed camps, injustice vs injustice.
The experience of BDS campaigns within South Africa itself has not been a pleasant one.
I can only commend UCT council for not caving into the zealots.
It is not too late, nor out of the bounds of reason, to embrace a secularist and non-partisan ‘third way’, that avoids scapegoating of those who disagree with leaders and pundits on either side, and which avoids sacrificing democratic freedoms, freedom of speech, while protecting constitutional rights in our own country.
NOTE: For the record, DRL a graduate of UCT Center for African Studies, is opposed to the separation barrier, is in favour of a limited arms embargo against the State of Israel, and does not support any cultural or academic boycott targeting persons of Jewish descent on the basis of our alleged history and identity.
SEE: Dear Steven Friedman