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Masuku victory and superb lawyers

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Thirteen years of litigation and the innumerable meetings, communication, and general back and forthing that went into it is surely time enough to devote to any legal matter, but even so, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD’s) case against Bongani Masuku wouldn’t have been complete without appropriately acknowledging the superb team of lawyers who made victory possible.

Last Tuesday evening, an event was held to pay tribute to those lawyers, in particular advocates Christiaan Bester, Mmusi Seape, Carol Steinberg, and Wim Trengove, together with the legal teams from Edward Nathan Sonnenberg and Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr. Also attending was the chief executive of the South African Human Rights Commission and senior leadership and professional staff of the Board, who had likewise all been intrinsically involved in the Masuku case as it made its way through the courts.

It was moving for us to listen to Bester as he shared his personal story of boyhood friendships with young members of our community and how much he learned about the history and impact of antisemitism through involvement in the case. One of his comments that resonated particularly was that events occurring in South Africa shouldn’t be seen as isolated, localised occurrences but part of a broader global trend in which antisemitism is on the rise everywhere. “No matter how far away from you it seems, hate cannot be allowed to fester, whether in a kosher supermarket in a Paris suburb, or outside a synagogue in Orange Grove,” Bester said, and that, indeed, was what motivated the Board to take on this matter in the first place and thereafter follow it through to the end.

It was also enlightening to listen to Steinberg’s insightful comments about the significance of the judgment in legal terms and what it had to say about the position of the Jewish community specifically. In essence, we are undoubtedly vulnerable to antisemitic attacks from various quarters, but can feel encouraged that the institutions put in place under the Constitution to protect us as well as other vulnerable communities are proving to be effective.

Upcoming Mensches in the Trenches book launch

Last month, I wrote about Mensches in the Trenches, a new book about some of the unsung Jewish stalwarts of the anti-apartheid struggle that has been brought out under the auspices of the SAJBD. At that time, preparations to launch and publicise the book were still being made. I’m now happy to report that the first of these launches will be taking place this coming Monday evening at Exclusive Books, Rosebank. A highlight of the event will be Judge Albie Sachs reminiscing about his father, the celebrated trade unionist leader Solly Sachs, who is one of the “mensches” who features in the book. Those interested in joining us for the occasion should RSVP to events@exclusivebooks.co.za. Please note that due to COVID-19 protocols, places are limited so booking is essential.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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