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ANC criticises WC premier for hosting Jewish event

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The African National Congress has challenged Western Cape Premier Alan Winde for allowing a Jewish charity event to be streamed from his official residence in spite of the fact that Winde hosts many other community events there without any question.

“It’s antisemitic [to question this event]. They often have events there that don’t get questioned,” says Member of Parliament Michael Bagraim.

“In essence, the premier’s residence in Cape Town is often used for charity events. I have attended literally dozens of events over many years. The first two events I went to – under the auspices of an ANC premier – were many and varied. Thereafter, I attended about 10 events under the premiership of the first Democratic Alliance (DA) premier. Never was there a complaint about any of these events. I have attended many events under the premiership of Alan Winde. Again, no complaints. In this specific event, the premier expended no costs at all but it has become an issue. The only reason is because it was for a Jewish charity.”

On Friday, 10 June, ANC legislature Chief Whip Patronella Zingisa ‘Pat’ Lekker asked Winde about hosting the Friends of the United Jewish Campaign (UJC) at his historic Leeuwenhof home in December 2020.

“The third branch of the work of the United Jewish Campaign is support for the ‘apartheid state’ of Israel,” she said in her official query. But local politicians, community leaders and political commentators have all pointed out that events are often hosted at the premier’s residence and say singling out a Jewish event is questionable at best, antisemitic at worst.

“I fail to see what ‘red line’ the premier has crossed. These complaints suggest that Jews aren’t fully accepted as a part of a diverse multicultural society,” says Milton Shain, antisemitism expert and emeritus professor of history at the University of Cape Town.

“Jews are entitled to take an opportunity to have the premier support a cause. Would these voices speak out about a similar event hosted by the Chinese community or Russian emigres?” he asks rhetorically.

The annual Friends of the UJC event aims to raise funds for the David Susman Community Foundation (DSCF), and celebrate Jewish life in the Mother City with donors visiting from overseas. The DSCF was established in 2007 as a financial safeguard against any unforeseen adverse events the Cape Town Jewish community may face. The COVID-19 pandemic was one such an event, and 2020 marked the first time that it was called upon to aid the community in a significant manner on many levels.

The chairperson of the DSCF, Marco van Embden, told the SA Jewish Report how the event came to be hosted at the premier’s residence. “Each year, we seek out a venue that is unique to out-of-town visitors. We approached the premier’s office, and it agreed, as this would be very good for Cape Town. No guests were in attendance in-person. It was all online due to COVID-19. Only the presenters and support staff were there, and the video was pre-recorded.”

The programme of events included a welcome from the premier, a video of Cape Town, and entertainment. The event was entirely funded by the DSCF and its annual sponsors. “There were no costs for the premier,” says Van Embden. This was echoed in Winde’s official response to Lekker’s question.

“No funds were raised at the event. A follow-up email was sent to all online attendees [about 150 people],” says Van Embden.

Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) Chairperson Tzvi Brivik says, “The Cape SAJBD is alarmed by the negative response directed at Premier Alan Winde for an event hosted by the Friends of the UJC at the premier’s residence.

“As stated by Mr Bagraim, the premier’s residence is often used by political parties and civil society for charity events. The Jewish community is a minority within Western Cape society that should be celebrated and protected alongside all other faith-based communities,” he says.

“It’s civil society that plays a central role alongside government to shape and nurture our society. We encourage the premier’s efforts to provide a platform for organisations, who, like the DSCF, work towards a better future for all and champion upliftment projects to overcome pressing social issues,” says Brivik. “We believe the only way to make a meaningful difference is to bring together different faiths and communities and foster engagement in safe spaces. This is what the premier has done, and, we hope, he’ll continue to do.”

Meanwhile, others point to the ANC’s declining support nationwide as a reason for questioning the premier on this event. “In 2004, the ANC held 45% of the vote in the Western Cape. In the most recent election, that had slid down to a mere 28% — a  third of supporters dropped. This gives some reason to explain why the ANC has taken such a vitriolic stance against the DA and Israel,” says advocate Mark Oppenheimer. “It’s in its death spiral in the Western Cape, and that pattern seems to be happening on a national level as well.

“As the party dies, it has to find ways of discrediting its opposition,” he says. “The tried and true method is to try and associate parties like the DA with apartheid. So this is why the ‘grand lie’ is sold that Israel is an apartheid state and that the DA’s friendly relationship with Israel and with supporters of Israel makes it an ‘apartheid party’. That would explain why such a hateful question was put to the premier about this fundraising event. It’s because the ANC is in a death spiral and is desperate.”

“The ANC is on a fishing expedition once again to cause division within South African communities and to create a stereotype,” says MP Darren Bergman. “The ballots are showing that voters are increasingly seeing that these gimmicks are used to exploit the emotions of people with a vested interest in the Middle East, and to try and abuse their political vote.

“I think it’s admirable for a premier to open up his residence to minority groups and let them into the world they pay rates and taxes to,” he says. “How may Muslim and Christian events have been hosted on these same lawns? Knowing the DA and its sincerity, I can tell you that the answer would please our voters.”

The SA Jewish Report reached out to Winde, but he chose not to comment. It also reached out to Lekker and ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe for comment, but didn’t receive a response by the time of going to print.

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