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SA Jewry wish Buthelezi happy 90th birthday

  • Buthelezi5Ilan
When Zulu Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi stood up to accept his 90th birthday gift from the Johannesburg Jewish community this week, he was well aware of the consequences he and his Jewish friends could face.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Oct 11, 2018

“I am proud to see how many friends I have in the Jewish community,” said Buthelezi. “My only sadness is in knowing that our celebration will be met with animosity in some quarters. But, whatever criticism you face for celebrating my legacy, and whatever criticism I face for my friendship with the Jewish community, we are both following the prescripts of our conscience.”

“Of course, propagandist organisations will say that my being here tonight marks me for having taken sides. But I cannot and will not hide the fact that I have a lifelong friendship with Jews in both South Africa and Israel,” he said.

The Johannesburg Jewish community paid tribute to one of its oldest allies and friends at a special ceremony at the Glenhazel Shul on 8 October. Buthelezi is the founder and long-time leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, once the second largest political party in South Africa. He was also Minister of Home Affairs under President Nelson Mandela.

For more than 50 years, Buthelezi has not only stood by South African Jewry, he has also expressed unwavering support for the state of Israel. The ceremony was held to express gratitude to this stalwart, and to celebrate his recent 90th birthday.

Communal leaders, political representatives, rabbis, reverends, and the prince’s own family and supporters filled the shul, while representatives from various communal Jewish organisations took the podium to recognise the mark Buthelezi has made on our community, and wish him many happy returns.

“In Buthelezi, we have a great friend and a supporter of our beloved state of Israel,” said Avrom Krengel, the President of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF). “In 2012, Trade Minister Rob Davies attempted to have all imported Israeli goods marked as being manufactured in the occupied territories. We launched a campaign against this, and marched in the streets of Pretoria in protest. The prince was there, making it clear where he stood on the matter. When I saw him there, I knew we would be all right, and indeed, we were successful.”

For decades, Buthelezi has had a special connection with several notable figures within the Jewish community. These include Arnold Zulman, in whose home Buthelezi and his wife, Irene, spent many evenings during the height of apartheid, and anti-apartheid stalwart Helen Suzman. Even further afield, the prince cherished a close bond with late Israeli President Shimon Peres, to whose funeral he was invited, as well as a private aircraft to convey him to Israel.

Shaun Zagnoev, the Chairperson of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein, and Ben Swartz, the Chairperson of the SAZF, all extended their best wishes to the prince.

“Prince Buthelezi has made his position clear,” said Swartz. “He has made it known that it is one of balance and fairness, believing that it is South Africa’s role to be constructive and free of prejudice. We salute his strength of character, and pay tribute to a leader who is always accessible and stands by his principles time and again.”

Buthelezi was praised by Israeli Ambassador Lior Keinan, who said that one of the defining moments in his first year in the country was his first meeting with the prince. “Even as an ambassador, it’s not every day you get to meet a man of such scale who has earned his place of honour,” he said. “Israel will always treasure your long-standing support which is always offered without hesitation.” Keinan also read a letter from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, thanking Buthelezi for his commitment to the Jewish state.

After a brief musical interlude performed by the Yeshiva College choir, which included songs from the musical King Shaka Zulu (which had members of the audience ululating and clapping), Rabbi Avraham Tanzer of Yeshiva College presented a menorah to the prince. “Here is nothing less than a legend,” said Tanzer. “You have been a lifelong friend to us and have given your complete commitment to our community. The menorah represents light, love and life, all values which you represent. Your heart and soul are in everything you do for us, making the menorah most appropriate.”

Reiterating his support for Israel, Buthelezi criticised the ANC for its stance on the situation in the Middle East and its decision to downgrade the South African embassy, calling the move short-sighted and regressive. He lamented to way in which he has been vilified and lied about by the ruling party and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement (BDS), saying that it made him empathise with Israel which regularly had to deal with such propaganda.

He said: “I have no shame in telling the truth about Israel or about my friendship with the Jewish community. Indeed, I am proud. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that allows freedom of religion, expression of the press and gender equality. These freedoms can only be seen as a great legacy.”

Buthelezi concluded by encouraging the audience to lay a firm foundation on which future generations could build a better future and reiterated his gratitude.

“When I received this invitation, I thought that it was G-d’s way of giving me the opportunity in the twilight of my life to say thank you to the Jewish people,” he said. “Friends, I am humbled by this celebration. May Hashem bless you for your kindness towards me.”

1 Comment

  1. 1 Russell Fig 17 Oct
    Happy Birthday to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. I tried to email Prince Buthelezi sending him Birthday wishes and the email bounced back. Maybe I have an old email address. Coud you please send me his current contacts? You can also text me on 617 - 383-1242.

       Regards,
        Russell

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