Israel – Mbalula does the ministerial sidestep
With the elections now just two months away, the ANC has embarked on a “Suburbs Outreach” communications initiative aimed at making contact and engaging in dialogue with various minority constituencies around the country.
On Monday evening, it was the turn of the Johannesburg Jewish community, with Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula addressing a gathering of “Young Jewish South Africans” at the premises of Capricorn Capital in Sandton.
The event took place under the auspices of the SAJBD, with the welcome and introduction being given by Gauteng Council member and Capricorn Capital Director Robbie Fihrer.
Mbalula focused on such issues as good governance, combating corruption and transformation, particularly in the area of sport.
Regarding the question of Israel and Palestine, he said that while there were areas of disagreement between the ANC and the Jewish community, it was important to ensure that there was continual dialogue between the two on those issues. Pointing out that he had himself visited Tel Aviv, he reiterated his party’s stance that the way forward in the region was a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
During the question and answer session, SAUJS National Chairman Ariella Carno, asked how the ANC’s official policy on Israel could be reconciled with its having just endorsed the forthcoming Israel Apartheid Week campaign, the aim of which was not to promote dialogue and peace initiatives, but rather to demonise Israel and oppose any kind of engagement with it.
Mbalula skirted the question, instead reiterating his party’s support for negotiations as the way forward to end the conflict.
The minister was also asked whether South Africa would be taking a stance on behalf of Uganda’s LGBT community in light of anti-gay laws that had recently been enacted there. His reply, to the effect that South Africa did not interfere in the internal policies of other countries, elicited ironic rumblings and comments of “Except for Israel”, from the audience.
Notwithstanding these areas of disagreement, the evening’s exchanges were generally cordial and respectful. Afterwards, Mbalula remained behind to engage with individual audience members who wished to ask further questions.