Quo Vadis: Whither South Africa’s religious freedom?

SOUTH AFRICA has a troubled history of religious freedom going back to the Protestant Reformation and the plight of Huguenot refugees fleeing religious persecution under Catholic France. ‘God Is Not a Christian’ claimed the late Desmond Tutu, who also said: “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray. ‘ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”

It was thus colonialism which brought religion to the continent, and for the better part of the 20th Century, the struggle was between theocrats in Pretoria — those who believed the Afrikaners were Africa’s equivalent of “God’s Chosen People”, armed with a Covenant literally signed in blood (at Blood river) — and those who believed in a more inclusive, secular national identity, one based upon the universal declaration of Human Rights, as illustrated by our Freedom Charter.

My own family history which spans the Huguenots, the Scottish Celts, and Jewish refugees from Czarist Russia (and even Basotho who fled Zulu militarism), struggled with these conflicts, based as they are on competing theologies, traditions, beliefs and practices. For the most part, the Latviks and Litvaks of Eastern Europe were socialists who practiced their religion in the face of the Enlightenment and Haskalah.

Persons such as Eli Weinberg, Esther & Hymie Barsel, Yetta Barenblatt and Baruch Hirson, were acknowledged for their contribution to the anti-apartheid movement on 1st March 2011, with a series of stamps released by members the African Union — the postal services of Liberia, Gambia and Sierra Leone

Zionism for these individuals had appeared wholly unnecessary until the events of the Holocaust and Farhud, the forced dispossession of Jews from MENA which preceded it. The trend of Medieval persecution and Czarist & Ottoman-Arab pogroms, resulting in wholesale slaughter, only got worse, effectively negating the emancipation of the Jews of Europe which had occurred under Napoleon.

In 1917 a mass expulsion of the Jews of Jerusalem was ordered by Djemal Pasha, though the outcome was narrowly averted due to the influence of the Prussian government, the eight thousand Jews of Jaffa nevertheless suffered deportation, and their property was seized as the region’s Jewish population was affected by the events of WW1, which included the Armenian Genocide. A report by a United States consul describing the Jaffa deportation was published in the June 3, 1917 edition of The New York Times.

A series of laws introduced by then Minister of the Interior D F Malan under the Smuts government during the 1930s was aimed at preventing Jewish immigration to our country, and introduction of the Nuremberg Laws created pseudo-scientific, racial and legal distinctions between Jews and Germans of ‘pure blood’ in Nazi Germany.

South Africa under the Nationalist government whose membership cards carried the Swastika, was soon to follow with its own system of race classification. (You can read my earlier writing on the subject here and here). Having gained the franchise, denied them under the Boer Republics, South African Jews were in danger of having their citizenship revoked by the Nationalists, as Malan’s brown shirts met boatloads of refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in Table Bay Harbour with force.

Celebrated Weekly Mail editor Irwin Manoim in his book ‘Mavericks Inside the Tent, a history of the Progressive Jewish movement in South Africa and its impact on the wider community’ outlines many of the predicaments faced by South Africa’s Jewish community during the tragic period of apartheid: “Jews were disproportionately strongly represented among anti-apartheid activists, a point frequently made by hostile authorities,” he writes. “But the most outspoken, committed and courageous of the Jewish anti-apartheid activists were largely secular, operating outside the organised Jewish community.”

Manoim narrates the role played by Jewish clerics such as Rabbi Andre Ungar (deported by Min TE Donges) and Chief Rabbi Cyril Harris in opposing the regime. Donge’s order read: “I have to inform you that … you are hereby ordered to leave the Union of South Africa not later than the 15th of January 1957 … If you fail to comply with this notice, you will be guilty of an offense and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding £100, or in default of payment of the fine, to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.”

Both individuals are air-brushed out of history by the likes of Naledi Pandor, whose followers on social media enjoy raising the issue of Percy Yutar the chief prosecutor at the Rivonia Trial. It is important to note that Mandela, a bipartisan on the Israel/Palestine issue, was arraigned alongside fellow Zionist Arthur Goldreich, and that Denis Goldberg, Lionel Bernstein, Robert Hepple, Harold Wolpe and James Kantor were all Jews.

It was thus that the issue of the Star of David became a point of order in the Johannesburg City Council this week. EFF councilors objected to city councilor Daniel Schay wearing a ‘Star of David’ on his tie.

“If they have issues with Jewish religious symbols they must come out and say it,” responded Schay.

“Freedom of religion is protected by the constitution. It is the first time in this Council’s chambers that somebody’s religion and expression of their religion is being questioned…This is unacceptable,” charged another councilor.

Burning down the house, Zondo, Tutu, Mafe

NO SOONER had Desmond Tutu been given a rousing sendoff and funeral, when our Parliament was set ablaze, an inferno of epic proportions. This two days before the handover of volume one of the Zondo Report. It is a poignant, tragic moment in our nation’s history. Coming hot on the heels of the events of last July which saw KZN go up in flames after a failed insurrection launched by former president Jacob Zuma. It was a year which was meant to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Constitution.

I attended the inaugural signing of the foundation document by the first constituent assembly. A moment which ushered in the first chapter of our young democracy, and presided over by a government of national unity. It is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of what has occurred under an embattled, diminished party, beset by factionalism, and the stench of corruption. It could not get any worse, if one launched a coup d’état of one’s own or realised the list of names implicated in state capture, include the very same individuals who in all likelihood will benefit from the massive distraction caused by the torching of the National Assembly.

Enter the proverbial scapegoat, Zandile Christmas Mafe, a man set to take responsibility for every sin committed by the ruling party in a vacuum caused by what appears to be Presidential immunity. Charges include arson, possession of stolen goods, and a growing number of allegations which could prove to be interesting from the perspective of anyone wanting to purchase a Ninja kitbag.

Not only is the Speaker and Secretary of Parliament blatantly misdirecting our attention from the turned off sprinkler systems, the failed alarms and lack of CTV monitoring, but we are now lead to believe, (this by our so-called authorities), that Mafe was carrying explosives. Next I suspect we will wake to find that Mafe is implicated in a plot to destroy the Republic in favour of the formation of Greater Pongololand, in a twisted narrative that will disguise the fact that one need look no further than Nkandla for the source of our current difficulties as a nation.

While it is clear that South Africa dodged a bullet in July, the Zuma counter-revolutionary shit-show is by no means over. We have a failed justice system to thank, one that is either incapable or unwilling to deal with the treasonous mastermind, the sinister force behind what should really be termed, the Anti-Zondo insurrection committee — those who have certainly attempted to turn this beautiful country into a feeble, tribalist homeland, merely in order to escape the implications of being named as the protagonists behind state capture.

It may be reassuring to some that Judge Zondo has recommended an ‘independent corruption agency’, free of party manipulation and executive control, but isn’t this what the Scorpions were supposed to be doing before they became the so-called Hawks?

Yet another government agency, costing millions which could turn out to be equally incapable of investigating a tuck shop heist even they are given specials powers to accomplish the task? This while the more troubling findings of the Zondo commission are steadily buried under a mountain of information and bluster, as the robust political discourse that passes for our nation’s realpolitiek takes its course?

Only time can tell whether our democratic, multi-party system will prevail over those who wish nothing more than to assert themselves as our ‘leaders in perpetuity’, who desire no less than the destruction of parliamentary authority — the end of democracy and the market economy, and its replacement by feudalism and dictatorship, all under the guise of a command economy.

Yes, we will rebuild, recover and restore our fledgling democracy, but only if the perpetrators of crimes against the state are dealt with post haste.

Time for patriots to assist the police in their duties?

SEE: Or Else, Dr Nie and the coming of the Warlords

Dalai Lama, SA government fiasco

The South African government has done it again. This time denying the Dalai Lama and some 6000+ local Buddhists and other people of faith in the country the right to freedom of association and freedom of religion. As the media story about the Dalai Lama visa fiasco broke around the world and with international condemnation springing from what Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu’s emotional response, the Deputy-President was today spinning blatant lies about the timing of the application.

This is not the first time that the Lama’s visa application has been through bureaucratic scrutiny. The first, in a highly publicised incident which made news-headlines in 2009, went so far as the High Court.

There has thus been more than enough time for the government as well as the legal system to get its act together on this issue. Instead,  government now pleads ignorance. Sorry, Mr Deputy-President, but  ignorance is no defence in terms of the law. Kgalema Molanthe needs to apologise to all people of faith with an interest in the outcome of freedom of association.

Stop oppressing us like the apartheid government. Stop the lies and dishonesty.