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I told you so

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Arguably one of the most annoying phrases known to man must be, “I told you so.” For generations, wives have reminded husbands of their unheeded warnings, parents have shaken their heads at their ill-disciplined children, and outdated employers have made the dire warning to their employees.

It’s also one of the phrases universally accepted as being pointless and irritating, and seldom achieves what it’s meant to. Which is to force the recipient to learn from the error of their ways. And to recognise the wisdom of the utterer.

All this is why I won’t be saying, “I told you so” when it comes to the African National Congress (ANC) and its approach in the lead-up to the elections. I won’t be reminding it that to focus on a conflict in the Middle East rather than on the situation within the borders of South Africa isn’t smart. And that to target the Jewish community, long known to be loyal to the country, is quite frankly stupid.

It would be fantastically classless of me to ask the ANC what it will be doing with all the Palestinian paraphernalia that it now has little use for. Will it store it at the top of the spare-room cupboard, donate it to charity, or sell it all at a massive jumble sale, marked “Everything must go!”

It would be ridiculously childish of me to enquire if it was, perhaps, interested in selling some of its air miles that it amassed from the four sojourns to The Hague – at a reasonable discount – or if alternatively, it could use those miles to send a few Jewish kids to summer camp in December. Local flights costing what they do.

Which is why I would never do that.

I also don’t need to. The Electoral Commission of South Africa’s results announcement on Sunday evening, 2 June, was impressive from several perspectives. The most significant was the removal of all things Palestinian from the necks of the ANC. Whether it was compelled to return them by Sunday lunchtime, or if it collectively decided that it did them no favours, the Palestinian-free look was a visual signal that they were there to represent South Africans, and not others. It was refreshing, and it was comforting.

In addition, the dignified acceptance of loss along with the message that lessons needed to be learned was even more important, especially as it underscored the ANC’s belief in democracy and respect for the wishes of the constituents.

Impressive as that might have been, the perceived betrayal by the ANC, the cold, uncaring treatment of the country’s Jews has left them deeply distrustful and angry. For many, the damage is too significant, and it will take immense work and effort to bridge the gap between the ANC and the Jewish community.

The one factor that might assist in healing wounds would be a successful coalition between the Democratic Alliance and the ANC. Where I believe that this is the best way forward for the country in many ways, I also know that the ANC is forced to enter such an arrangement in order to stay in government is most likely the biggest “I told you so” of them all.

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