“It’s nice to know SA Jewry has my back”
Israeli Ambassador Arthur Lenk told a packed hall at Beyachad last night that it was up to SA Jewry to attend to their relationship with the SA community and government. My job here is as a diplomat representing a foreign country, said Lenk, adding that “it’s nice to know that SA Jewry has my back.” You as South Africans have to speak about domestic issues. But from what I have seen I think that my brothers and sisters here in SA are skilled at showing why SA Jewry is important.
Israeli Ambassador Arthur Lenk told a packed hall at Beyachad last night that it was up to SA Jewry to attend to their relationship with the SA community and government. My job here is as a diplomat representing a foreign country, said Lenk, adding that “it’s nice to know that SA Jewry has my back.”
You as South Africans have to speak about domestic issues. But from what I have seen I think that my brothers and sisters here in SA are skilled at showing why SA Jewry is important.
The new ambassador of Israel in South Africa, Lesotho, Mauritius and Swaziland. His Excellency Ambassador Arthur Lenk spoke to a sell-out community audience at Beyachad last night.
FROM LEFT: Krengel, Lenk, Reich & Fisher
The sell-out talk was hosted by Likud-SA and Zionist Federation and the Jewish Report Online was live-blogging from the event as the ambassador spoke on: “Israel and South Africa: Imagining the possibilities!”
Media interest ran high and five journalists requested accreditation for the event. Mike Fisher, chair of Likud-SA Gauteng, welcomed the guests and acted as MC.
First to speak was SAZF national chair Avrom Krengel who said that although the new ambassador and his deputy had only been in SA for three and a half months, they had literally criss-crossed the country and engaged the Jewish community and the country at large. The amount of work they had done in such a short time, said Krengel, made it seem that they have been in SA a lot longer.
Referring to the political events between the Israeli and SA governments over the past two weeks, Krengel pointed out that the relationship between SA and Israel can flare up at a moments’ notice.
But, Krengel said, he believes the new ambassadorial team can do great things for the relationship between the two countries. Krengel thanked Likud-SA for setting up the event.
roar of applause.
On taking the podium Lenk received a roar of applause. Ever the joker, he thanked the audience and said he hoped they felt at the end that they had received their R30’s worth – which was the price for attendance and refreshments.
Lenk said that in his short time in SA, he and his family had been overwhelmed by the welcome from the Jewish community. What he called “the legendary relationship between SA Jewry and Israel” is clearly correct, he said.
The ambassador said that he sees so much potential for the relationship between Israel and SA.
Lenk spoke of experiencing the “dynamic excitement” in an SA 20-years after Apartheid. The only other general community vibrance of this sort he had ever experienced in the world, said the US-born diplomat, is in Israel.
On being assigned to SA, he said, the conventional wisdom was that this was going to be a tough assignment. He told the audience that he had not experienced it as such. To be sure, he added, this is certainly a challenging posting, but not a bad post. Rather, Lenk sees his appointment as privilege.
He heaped praise of the SA Christian community and their general admiration for Israel. When he was invited to Moria for a major ZCC event, he said, it had stunned him. He felt like THE VIP.
Regarding trade relations between SA and Israel, there is US$1-billion a year bilateral trade between SA and Israel. Bilateral tourism, he said, is also huge.
Also on SAJR Online:
- LENK PRESENTS CREDENTIALS AND VEGGIES TO ZUMA Read how cleverly the ambassador made his point on the day that the Israeli flag flew over the Presidential Guesthouse last month
- LENK SHINES THROUGH AGGRESSION ON SABC Watch how gingerly the ambassador handled an over-aggressive SABC interviewer last week
- READ ANT KATZ’ RAW LIVE BLOG Read the raw live blog that drew hundreds of followers last night.
The ambassador said that he had been impressed in the amount of interest and coverage he had enjoyed in the SA media and that, after his short time in SA, there are “two big take-aways” he has found:
- There is a need to put Israel’s narrative out there; and
- There is a need to talk about the issues the two countries have in common.
“What we (Israel) need to do in SA,” he said, “is to tell our story about how we want to live in peace and prosperity with all of our neighbours.”
The ambassador spoke at UJ recently and, quoting from SA policy documents, told the students that everything SA says it wants to do – like creating jobs, exporting produce due to the opposing seasonality, water issues, agriculture, innovation, high tech – “these are all things that SA itself says it has need for, and Israel has the ability and expertise to assist,” said Lenk. All over SA emerging farmers are already benefiting from Israeli technology.
PIC: Ant Katz spent the night with his head down live blogging
“Israel is a start-up nation,” said Lenk. Not because he says so, but because Facebook says so. Because Google says so, and Apple, Intel, and Microsoft. He said Israel was considered the most high tech innovator site outside of the West Coast of the US.
“What can Israel get from SA?” asked Lenk rhetorically.
The idea that unsolvable problems can be solved is an SA lesson to the world. One that Israelis need to hear about. One that Palestinians AND Iranians need to hear about too.
The big difference between the peace process in SA and that in Israel, explained the ambassador, is that “in South Africa you needed to get married; we and the Palestinians need to get divorced.”
But Israel and the Palestinians need to talk. “And we need to talk more… and more.” This is the policy of the State of Israel. It always has been, said Lenk, and Prime Minister Netanyahu had reiterated this several times over the past few days.
The truth, said Lenk, is that to the north of Israel “we have the awfulness of a leader killing and gassing his own people. We are pleased for the people of Syria” that there seems to be a resolution regarding decommissioning gas stockpiles.
“To the south we have Egypt. Clearly, what they call the Arab spring has a long way to go,” Lenk said.
Then, he said, there is Iran. From an Israeli perspective nothing would be better than Iran being brought back to (nuclear) normalcy. It’s a question of strategy vs. tactics, he said. Israel wants the P5+1 to push Iran, and push it hard.
South Africa/Israel relations
Ambassador Lenk said that Israel is engaging very actively with SA – as is SA Jewry. We have to get out and tell that story. It is an honour to be among you tonight, concluded the ambassador to raucous applause.
Clearly his audience felt that they had, indeed, received their R30’s worth!
Q&As with Ambassador Lenk
The Ambassador then took questions, numerous and tricky ones. He answered all except he would not comment on his Avigdor Lieberman, he said, as that was his new boss. The names of those posing questions were not stated and hence we are unable to provide them. But Ambassador Lenk was open and forthright in his responses. Both the questions and the ambassador’s answers are paraphrased unless in quotation marks.
QUESTION: What do you think of Lieberman’s lack of knowledge of SA?
AMBASSADOR LENK: He’s my boss, but, okay let me say this: There is constructive engagement between the two countries.
QUESTION: Your predecessor had difficulty with Parliament’s Foreign Affairs subcommittee. Have you?
LENK: I haven’t met them here yet, I will be soon. I met them in Israel before I came out. I see my role as meeting with everyone. “It is my job and my responsibility to meet with people who don’t agree with me.” And to convey their feelings back to my government. But I will say that “it’s nice to know that SA Jewry has my back.”
QUESTION: How can Israel engage with Palestinians when they want all of Israel?
LENK: Good question. There is a split in values of Fatah and Hamas. I agree with you on Hamas, but not regarding Fatah. They are not Zionists. They (Fatah) should be Palestinian patriots. They should negotiate, go back to their people and discuss pragmatically that they (and us) are going to have to live alongside each other. I hope that both our leaders and Palestinian leaders are fighting hard for (a lasting) peace. Can we find peace? I don’t know. But we have to try. As we did with Egypt and Jordan.
QUESTION: The population of Israel is very diverse in culture but is the only democratic country in region. Do you think Israel will ever have to choose between being a Jewish State and a democratic State.
LENK: I really hope not. It has never been our desire to rule over other people. I don’t know that compromise is close – but I think the desire (for compromise) has been there in Israel forever.
QUESTION: It is heartening to hear that Israel has many friends in SA. But not in our government, at DIRCO, Trade & Industry, electioneering rhetoric, etc.
LENK: I can only speak to one side of it (SA/Israel relations). You as South Africans have to speak about domestic issues. But from what I have seen I think that my brothers and sisters here in SA are skilled at showing why SA Jewry is important. My job here is as a diplomat representing a foreign country. I think there are enough people in Christian and Jewish SA who realise that SA has much to gain from better relations with Israel.
QUESTION: I cannot see the Israeli government uprooting 600,000 citizens (in the West Bank).
LENK: I don’t know what the plans that are being talked about are – and if I did, I wouldn’t say. But it is common knowledge that land swops are part of the discussions. I believe that (Palestinian) societies gain by having Jewish neighbours.
QUESTION: Are there actually negotiations (between Israel and Palestinians) going on?
LENK: I think that we are five or seven months down the line. The fact that we are hearing nothing is good news. There are tough issues at hand. As an Israeli with three daughters I believe we have to try – and keep trying.
QUESTION: The way I see it is that we (Israel) make concessions all the time. Why do you believe they (Palestinians) will compromise?
LENK: I am not a spokesman for the Palestinians. But on both sides there are those who have the realisation that we are going to have to live alongside each other. The reality is that there are going to be two States. It is a hard reality for people on our side and theirs (to accept).
QUESTION: I get the impression that this whole peace plan is just marking time until Obama leaves (office). How does the US situation in the US play into the question of the peace talks.
LENK: I am not prepared to speak on behalf of US. But, interestingly, Obama visited both SA and Israel this year and he convinced both the people of SA and Israel that he was friendly. Regarding the Israel/US relationship – this is not a new one. The US has been the closest ally of Israel for the past 40 years. If I had to choose a best friend for Israel, it would be America. Wouldn’t you?
Going to Rage like ‘playing Russian Roulette’
Expert in mass gathering medicine, Professor Efraim Kramer, told the SA Jewish Report this week that “Rage is nothing short of teenage Russian Roulette that may take the lives of its participants and cause large national collateral damage in disease and death, as it did last year.”
Kramer said this following a letter written by the Gauteng General Practitioners Collaboration (GGPC) was sent to local principals, begging them to tell students not to go to end-of-year Rage festivals because of the pandemic.
Matric Rage is a group of festivals held at South African coastal towns like Plettenberg Bay and Ballito to celebrate the end of school. Matric Rage 2020 is widely considered to be the super-spreader event that fuelled South Africa’s deadly second wave of COVID-19.
This year’s Matric Rage organisers say they have put safety measures and protocols in place, including that no one can attend without being fully vaccinated. But in their letter, the general practitioners (GPs) say, “However good their intentions, we don’t believe that the COVID-19 safety measures suggested by the organisers can prevent the spread of the virus. A large gathering like this, run over a few days, and consisting of excited teens is the ideal environment for a super-spreader event – as last year’s event demonstrated. Even a ‘vax passport’ [now that 18 year olds are eligible] and daily rapid antigen tests are unlikely to be able to contain an inevitable presence and spread of COVID-19 amongst the revellers and beyond them to more vulnerable people.
“Given the low vaccination rate in South Africa, a festival event of this size poses a considerable risk of a significant and unnecessary contribution to a fourth spike [wave],” they said.
Kramer, head of the Division of Emergency Medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand, and professor of Sports Medicine at Pretoria University, said, “No parent has the right to put their children, other children, and society at health risk because of irresponsible personal excuses that the youngsters need to chill out. These mass gathering, high-risk events can cause death – it’s no different to drinking and driving. Or will the same parents agree to drinking and driving because their kids had a difficult year?” he asked rhetorically.
“I agree that the young generation have sustained COVID-19 collateral damage psychologically, emotionally, and even mentally, all requiring adequate and appropriate countermeasures and social counselling activities,” said Kramer. “However, it’s what’s done, how it’s done, when and where it’s done, and the attention to health-precaution detail that’s primary and paramount.
“Regarding vaccination, these close-contact, mass gathering, crowded events remain a super-spreader, and have resulted in the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated occupying the majority of hospital ICU [intensive-care unit] beds, mechanical ventilators, and sadly, coffins,” he said.
“If Rage continues unabated against sound medical advice, no participant should be allowed back home without full COVID-19 testing. In addition, no participant should be allowed into any communal event including shuls or related activities without evidence of full COVID-19 testing. Finally, no participant should be allowed back to school or education institutions without evidence of full COVID-19 testing.
“Let us not redress COVID-19 collateral damage by bring out the worst in us,” he pleaded. “Let it rather bring out the best, the most innovative, the most exciting, energetic, low risk, safety-assured events that allow us all – young and old – to socialise with each other again. It can be done with discipline, attention to detail, direction, and supervision with effective command and control. All for one, and one for all.”
But one Cape Town parent, Mike Abel, said he will allow his son to go to Rage. “The fine balancing act as a parent is always to consider your children’s physical health and their mental health. These two don’t always go hand in hand when your kids run onto a rugby or hockey pitch with gum guards, head guards, knee guards, and silent words to the gods,” he said.
“Lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions have played havoc with mental and physical health. As social creatures, our children have become more sedentary and disconnected. Rage is an opportunity for excitement, fun, and reconnection.
“Our son is 18 and vaccinated. Is Rage ideal? No. Is it 100% safe? No. Do we think it’s the right decision for him to go? Yes. It will be better for him than not going. He’ll have fun. He’ll let off steam. He’ll connect, laugh, play, swim, and enjoy his new-found freedom and transition from school to this new chapter and adventure. Will we sleep easy while he’s there? No. But we hope his maturity, sense of responsibility, and values will guide him well-ish. Our kids need a degree of risk and freedom for both their physical and mental well-being.”
The GGPC letter was drafted by a group of GPs including three local Jewish doctors. One of them, Dr Sheri Fanaroff, said, “Even with COVID-19 protocols in place, in reality they don’t happen. It’s the same as saying there should be no drugs allowed, but we know there are. I have a matric child, and I’m happy for her to go away and have fun, but not to a massive organised event. Yes, they’ve had a lousy two years, but there are safer ways to have fun. Parents don’t want to make their child be the only one that’s excluded, and we would rather the events be cancelled altogether than force parents and children to make a choice.
“The other issue is that many kids born later in the year won’t be fully vaccinated and two weeks post vaccination by the time Rage comes. Many don’t want to get vaccinated during exams,” she said. “And while young people don’t always get extremely ill from COVID-19, we are seeing a fair amount of long-term consequences. A good percent of this age group are battling six months later with chronic fatigue, arthritis, joint pain, brain fog, and the emotional consequences of all of that.”
Another GP involved in the drafting of the letter, Dr Daniel Israel, said, “One has to differentiate between normal social events and super-spreader events. I’m pretty pro people getting out socially at the moment with safe protocols, but super-spreader events are a no-go. These are teenagers who have just finished matric, and everything about their partying has to do with consumption of alcohol, physical closeness, and small spaces, which all lends itself to COVID-19 spreading. So, by the nature of the people who come to it, you can’t have a safe event.
“A question could be, ‘well these are young, healthy kids – what’s the difference?’ But we know even from last year that when they get home, they don’t isolate properly, they go home on planes, and they do spread it,” he said. “So, the same way that we haven’t been able to do certain things in a pandemic – like Broadway is closed – we think Rage should be closed too. We may be able to have holidays, but not Rage. We’re hoping that next year, we’ll be in a different place.”
Twenty-one year old survives COVID-19 by a breath
We’ve all heard that COVID-19 doesn’t generally affect young people. So when Capetonian Ryan Lipman tested positive in late July, he thought his age was in his favour. He was wrong.
The young musician fought for his life for three weeks in hospital, including 11 days in the intensive care unit (ICU). Now, he has survived to tell the tale, and is begging the unvaccinated to get the jab.
“That first night in hospital was when I realised how serious COVID-19 is,” says Lipman. “Without oxygen, it feels like you are trying to breathe through a toothpick. You cannot get enough air into your lungs.
“I messaged my mom saying how scared I was. I believed that this was how it was going to end. I was going to die from COVID-19.”
He was the youngest COVID-19 pneumonia ICU patient at Milnerton Mediclinic. Recalling the moment he was wheeled in, he says, “All I could see was people on ventilators. Mouths open. Pipes everywhere. I completely lost it. I begged them not to let me die. I barely ever cry, but being in the ICU at the age of 21 with COVID-19 pneumonia, not knowing if you will ever see your family again … trust me, you learn that crying is pretty much all you do.”
Going back to the beginning, he says his family was careful to follow the COVID-19 protocols. “All I ever wanted was to stay clear of this virus. But we celebrated my dad’s birthday by going out for supper – a rare treat in a pandemic.” He’s not sure where his family picked up the virus, but it could have been there. First, his mother got sick, but she had already had one dose of the vaccine. His father had had two doses, and only had mild symptoms.
Lipman also tested positive. He wasn’t vaccinated as he was too young at the time. “It started with chills and a headache. While I have asthma, I’m 21 and healthy.” They all registered with the Community Security Organisation’s COVID-19 Wellness Programme. “Without this monitoring programme, I don’t think I would be alive today,” he says.
“On day two, I woke up with body aches and fatigue. With every movement you make, it feels like someone is aggressively hurting you. Day three began with a raging fever that wouldn’t go down, day four with pain in my chest and back. With a dry cough and extreme dizziness, I woke up on day eight with my oxygen levels dropping to 90%. My dad decided he was taking me to the hospital. At first, I refused. Why would I need to go to hospital for COVID-19? This doesn’t happen to young people.”
But he eventually agreed, and it turned out to be a lifesaving decision. “I later asked my doctors what would have happened if my father hadn’t brought me in when he did. They told me that any later, the outcome would’ve been very different.”
At the hospital, he says, “One nurse put a nasal cannula in my nose, one inserted a drip and one checked my blood pressure and oxygen saturation, which were now at 88%.
“A representative from Pathcare came to take a ‘blood gas’ from an artery to see exactly how much oxygen was in the blood. The pain is excruciating because it’s done ‘blind’. You can’t see an artery, so if the person drawing the blood doesn’t hit the artery, the needle digs deeper.”
The Emergency Room doctor listened to Lipman’s lungs. “I can still hear her shouting, ‘I think we have a case of COVID-19 pneumonia, I need dexamethasone’. The doctor explained that I was hypoxic.” He was admitted. The next morning, his oxygen levels were still at 88%.
“Night arrives and my fear gets worse as I still feel like I cannot get air into my lungs. I ask the nurse to increase the flow rate. At about two in the morning, my breathing problems start to increase again. I find my remote on the floor and manage to grab it with the small amount of energy I have, but it had stopped working.
“It was at this point I started to believe that this was my end. I prayed to G-d and told Him that if it’s my time, he must just take me. I managed to crawl out the bed and banged on the window to get the nurse’s attention. After fixing my remote, I felt that maybe the flow of oxygen was too much, making it even more difficult to breathe. As she slightly decreased the flow of oxygen, an overwhelming feeling of relief came over me as I could finally breathe.”
His oxygen levels went down to 86%, and he was put on a high flow oxygen system. “This delivers humidified oxygen up to 60 litres per minute. They left me for two hours flat on my stomach to see if they could get my oxygen levels back to at least 95%. This is an incredibly uncomfortable experience. The head nurse checked my SATS again – 89%. She added a re-breather mask. I’m now on the highest amount of oxygen before they ventilate you.”
Lipman was then moved to ICU, where he saw things that no 21-year-old should see – “the weeping cries of people saying goodbye to their family members, people getting intubated in front of you, and people passing away.
“The head nurse promised me he would do everything to get me out of there alive and said I needed to keep positive. I’ve learnt that as much as COVID-19 is a physical fight, it’s also a mental fight.”
His parents were allowed to visit him in ICU. “As my father left, I begged him to get me out of there. Every day in ICU was the same. Imagine a blood gas every morning? To stop this pain, my doctor decided that I would need an arterial line for blood to be taken at any time without having to stab a needle into my artery. I would basically become a ‘blood tap’. As the line was inserted, I screamed in pain. As soon as the doctor flushed the line, my entire hand started to burn. An intense burning never experienced before in my life.”
Eating was a huge battle, as “every time that mask came off for a few seconds, I would need to catch my breath. Just slightly adjusting my body so that the physios could work on my back would feel like I had run a marathon.
“Each day, the physios push you to your max with breathing exercises as well as physical exercises. It took six days to get me standing and another five days to learn how to walk again.”
Lipman slowly and miraculously recovered. “I couldn’t believe I survived. I constantly feared death. It was too close for comfort.”
Before he left the hospital, he returned to the ICU one more time to thank them. “All I needed to say was ‘thank you all for saving my life’ to turn me into a complete emotional wreck. ‘I could have died, I could have died,’ I cried. ‘But you didn’t. You were given a second chance at life – now take it,’ they said.
“This experience has taught me so many things, but mainly, to be grateful for every single moment,” he says. “I was nearly on a ventilator, fighting for my life, and endured traumatic events that will most likely haunt me forever. My parents were vaccinated and I wasn’t. Please get vaccinated.”
Community called to back anti-corruption body
A proposition for a new, independent anti-corruption body landed on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s desk on Tuesday, 24 August, and those who have spent years toiling to make it happen are asking the South African Jewish community to support it in any way it can.
“Our community was burnt by the actions of the ‘Gupta minyan’ during state capture,” says community stalwart Mark Hyman. He is the founder and director of a new organisation called Citizens for Integrity, and played a key role in putting together the memorandum sent by nongovernmental organisation (NGO) Accountability Now to the president this week.
“Corruption has decimated other Jewish communities living in failed African states. This is relevant to us all. As Jews, we cannot stand by and let corruption happen. We need to get behind this process.”
Accountability Now proposes the formation of a Chapter Nine anti-corruption body provisionally called the Integrity Commission. Chapter Nine institutions refer to organisations established in terms of Chapter 9 of the South African Constitution to guard democracy.
One of Accountability Now’s directors, Paul Hoffman SC, says that this specialist, elite, and independent anti-corruption body would help to prevent, combat, investigate, and prosecute the corrupt in our midst.
“Serious corruption, be it in the form of state capture, ‘covidpreneurism’, or orchestrated looting and rioting is the number-one threat to the rule of law and the success of our Constitution,” says Hoffman.
Accountability Now has advocated the need for such a body for more than a decade. It believes it has now become a matter of urgency due to the shrinking economy and unrest being fomented. “The beauty of the Chapter Nine umbrella is that the body cannot be closed down as easily as the Scorpions were dissolved,” says Hoffman.
In the memorandum that was sent to the president and Parliament this week, Accountability Now called for the introduction of a constitutional amendment and enabling legislation for the establishment of constitutionally compliant anti-corruption machinery of state in South Africa.
“Serious forms of corruption like grand corruption, state capture, and kleptocracy in South Africa are criminal violations of fundamental constitutional and human rights. They are literally killing many South Africans, mostly the poorest, and some of the whistle blowers,” says Hoffman.
“The anti-corruption machinery of state in South Africa isn’t fit for purpose, especially regarding serious corruption in all its forms,” he says.
Hoffman says Ramaphosa was asked in Parliament in 2019 to consider the establishment of a Chapter Nine anti-corruption body, to which he replied that he would “mull over” the “refreshing idea”.
Then, in August 2020, the African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee (NEC) instructed cabinet to set up new anti-corruption entity. It envisaged a stand-alone, single, permanent, and independent body, capable of dealing with corruption without fear, favour, or prejudice. That resolution hasn’t been acted on openly yet.
However, in his State of the Nation address in February, Ramaphosa announced that there was a long-term plan for a new anti-corruption body that reported to Parliament, but he would need to consult about it over the next two years.
“He clearly didn’t see it as urgent then, but we disagree, as South Africa is sliding toward failed-state status,” says Hoffman. “So, we sat down and prepared a constitutional amendment and enabling legislation. To get there, we have proposed a divorce between the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] and the justice department so as to secure the independence of the NPA and eliminate the influence of the executive branch of government over it.
“We also proposed a definition of serious corruption which is those cases in which more than R5 million is involved. Only cases of serious corruption will be dealt with by this new commission. The idea is that it will be a ‘one stop shop’ with a branch in each province. It will investigate and prosecute under one leadership, as the Scorpions did before it was disbanded,” he says.
“All aspects of serious corruption will be dealt with by this one body,” he says. “It will be overseen only by Parliament, and have its own accounting officer. Parliament will determine the name of such a body in the process of legislating it.
“The Hawks will carry on – they will lose jurisdiction only in dealing with serious corruption. The NPA will also continue, but the prosecuting of serious corruption will go to this new body. We also say that this new body must be given guaranteed finances – it should be entitled to 0.03% of the national budget in the preceding year.
“It will have civil jurisdiction and the capacity to recover loot, seize and preserve proceeds, and ensure that they are restored to those who were looted,” says Hoffman. “We hope that a good half of the estimated R1.5 trillion of state-capture loot will be recovered within a year of this body being formed. The longer we leave it, the harder is it to chase up. Already, banks and professionals caught up in state capture and exposed at the Zondo Commission are low-hanging fruit.”
He says the reason they have done this now is because “we believe its time has come. First, the ANC NEC asked for it. There might be slightly different terminology, but nothing we are proposing is different to what it asked for in August last year. Then, in July 2021, the Democratic Alliance announced that it wanted the Hawks to be converted into an anti-corruption body under Chapter 9. This is a step in the right direction, but we believe it’s not enough in the current circumstances. The NPA is unable to do its work on corruption because of saboteurs planted within it by [former president, Jacob] Zuma. Rather than swim against the tide, handpick independent experts for a new organisation so that it can do its work properly.”
Hoffman says this change is important and urgent for us all, but particularly for the business community, which holds the key to turning the beloved country around.
“New investment in South Africa won’t occur if the perception is that it is a corrupt country. But if the government ‘walks the walk’ on countering corruption, confidence will grow that investment is safer. Also, it’s about keeping to the rule of law and realising the promise of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Poverty, inequality, and joblessness can best be addressed via the vigorous growth of the economy.”
Willie Hofmeyr, the retired head of the asset forfeiture unit at the NPA, and also a founder and director of Citizens for Integrity, has also put his weight behind the initiative. “Given where we are in South Africa, we need a body whose sole focus is corruption,” he says. “The Jewish community has always been at the forefront of change in South Africa. Corruption is our biggest challenge since apartheid. It’s the biggest threat our country faces, and it’s a war that we cannot afford to lose.”
Hoffman is asking the community to be “active and participative citizens, and write to the president and the secretary of constitutional review in Parliament expressing your support”.
In addition, he says, “Accountability Now is a small section 18A compliant NGO that’s entirely reliant upon donations to do its work. All directors and trustees are unpaid volunteers, and its overheads are kept to the barest minimum. If you are of a mind to support Accountability Now, a pay gate portal is available on its website.”
Visit the integrity commission page, www.accountabilitynow.org.za, for more information and a look at the draft bills proposed.
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