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Evening characterised by honesty, frankness





Sackstein, as a founding member of Jews for Social Justice, the Jewish anti-apartheid movement, facilitated many of the initial discussions between the Jewish community and the ANC, Mass Democratic Movement and Cosatu in the 1980s. He also took the only official ANC delegation to ever visit Israel.

In 2008, (then) President Motlanthe succeeded President Thabo Mbeki as the third president of a democratic South Africa. He later became deputy president to President Jacob Zuma. As an act of defiance, at the ANC’s electoral conference in Mangaung, Motlanthe ran for the position of president of the ANC against Zuma, but was convincingly defeated by the incumbent president, who won re-election.

Motlanthe exited public life at the end of the first Zuma presidential term and was succeeded as deputy president by Cyril Ramaphosa.

However current media rumblings are placing Motlanthe back in the political spotlight. According to a recent article in The Mail & Guardian, “In a rerun of Mangaung 2012, Kgalema Motlanthe is being thrust forward as the preferred candidate for the presidency of the ANC.” Also according to the paper, a well-placed executive at the ANC’s Johannesburg branch has claimed that 70 per cent of the ANC’s 135 branches in Johannesburg support Motlanthe to succeed President Zuma as the next president.  

He told the Mail & Guardian that: “Kgalema has not taken a break from politics. We are launching his campaign… The primary objective of this campaign is to restore the dignity of the ANC. But, beyond that, it is to bring back the hope of citizens because they have lost confidence in the ANC.”

The meeting between Motlanthe and the Jewish community which took place at the home of Sackstein on Purim, began with Sackstein narrating the story of Purim and how the Prime Minister of Persia had been recalled by the Persian King.

All participants agreed that in order to ensure free and honest discussion, the evening would be “off the record”.

Discussions covered Israel/South African relations, anti-Semitism and racism within the ANC. Talks also covered the economy, corruption within the ruling party, the role of the ANC National Executive Committee and its approach to the President, the succession race within the ANC itself, the “Fees Must Fall” protests, conservation, job creation and the potential of a ratings agency downgrade of South Africa.

The former president stayed for nearly three and a half hours and would not leave until he had dealt with every question raised in the discussions.

The very robust evening was characterised by honesty, pragmatism and a very frank assessment of South Africa and its current situation.

The issue of whether Motlanthe was in the race to succeed Zuma, was also discussed in a very open and frank manner.

One of the highlights of the evening was when an ANC branch chairman told the former president that ANC members in her branch were saying to the party: “Not in my name – the corruption and greed has gone too far and something must be done to stop it.” The comments did not come as a surprise to Motlanthe.

Although refreshingly honest, the evening was warm, friendly and enormously engaging. Motlanthe was intelligent, thoughtful and knowledgeable on a wide range of topics.  All parties agreed to continue ongoing discussions.

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