ANC like ‘before’ snapshot in Extreme Makeover
There’s something alluring about extreme makeovers. Home renovations; a dramatic transformation of a homeless person into a potential employee; and hairstyle and make up before-and-after posts are some of the most popular on social media. Which is probably why, even as a bald bloke with no prospects of “regaining” my hair – see what I did there – unless I went to Turkey, I still find myself glued to those posts.
If there’s a “before”, I’ll likely hang around until the “after”.
This might explain to some extent why I’m uncomfortable with the, “Do Jews feel at home in South Africa?” narrative. A theme that features in Jewish dining rooms; in parking lots of Jewish schools; in Jewish-focused media; and now in mainstream South African media and even the global press. Like BBC HARDtalk.
The discussion is an important one. But so too is the narrative and perspective. And it will vastly depend on whether one views South Africa as a “before” or “after” photo.
No matter the perspective, the facts are the same. After displaying what was a fantastic transformation from the iniquitous apartheid regime to a constitutional democracy, South Africa showed the world how it could be done. Imperfect though it was, and challenges not to be understated, the potential was there.
Thirty years later, it looks bleak. Thanks largely to a corrupt African National Congress (ANC), South Africa is plagued by enormous difficulties that threaten many aspects of the magnificent country.
And then there’s the “Jewish” problem. For the South African Jewish community, 7 October 2023 marked a significant point in its relationship with the ANC. Protestations that the party was anti-Israel and not anti-Jewish were seen to be insincere following the actions of International Relations Minister Dr Naledi Pandor and President Cyril Ramaphosa. In the history of the relationship, the just more than 124 days since that date have resulted in the lowest ebb.
So far has the relationship plummeted, that South Africa’s chief rabbi has instructed the community no longer to pray for the party, but rather for the people of the country. The chief rabbi has also openly challenged the president and the party in terms of their links to Hamas and Iran, and questioned their motivation in taking Israel to the International Court of Justice.
Suffice it to say that Ramaphosa is unlikely to be a Shabbat dinner guest at the chief anytime soon.
And vice versa.
What’s important about the stance of the chief rabbi is that he’s not questioning whether Jews are “at home” in the country. He’s not asking the president to love his people, and he’s not begging for acceptance. His message is simply that Jewish South Africans are as South African as the president himself, and that as citizens of the country, we have the right to transparency, to answers, to honesty, and to decency.
Jews, like all South Africans, deserve better. Better than the ANC, which isn’t South Africa.
South Africa needs an extreme make over. The ANC is a “before” photo of corruption and decay. And disinterest. Of course, we’re not “comfortable” in the country. No-one is. Which is why it’s time to change the furniture. To create a place that reflects the values of South Africans who care for each other and who are honest, wonderful people.
This is the snapshot of before. I look forward to developing the after.