Ramaphosa: SA has constructive role to play in Middle East

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President Cyril Ramaphosa this week praised South African Jewry for setting an example of unity to the nation.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Nov 29, 2018

Ramaphosa was a guest at the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) Gauteng Council conference in Johannesburg on 25 November.

He thanked members of the business community for being at the forefront of economic inclusion.

In conversation with business leader Stephen Koseff, former Chief Executive of Investec Bank, the president said, “The Jewish community can teach all of us so many good lessons because you act as a community.

 “You are able to take positive steps to do things against poverty, to do things against inequality. When certain things are done against what you stand for as a community, you stand together. You stand together against anti-Semitism, against attacks targeted at you as a community, as Jews.”

These lessons, he said, could be “translated throughout the nation”.

“This is precisely what we should seek to engender – that all South Africans, without consideration of where we come from, what racial group we come from, should unite and act against all that militates against the values that are enshrined in our Constitution.”

The event was attended by numerous members of the diplomatic corps and Cabinet ministers, including Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan. Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein, business leaders, and members of the community were present.

There was silence in the auditorium as Ramaphosa spoke about the Middle East.

He acknowledged that the Jewish community was “concerned, shocked, and bewildered” by the resolution to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel.

“What we are seeking to do now is ask, does South Africa have a role to play in promoting peace? Does South Africa have a role to play in various parts of the world, but particularly in the Middle East? Our view is that we do have a role to play, and our foreign policy is going to be directed towards doing precisely that.” This was particularly pertinent, he said, as South Africa took its seat as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

 “So, the conflict in the Middle East is right on my radar screen. It’s an area where we are being called upon to play a role, and we will want to play a constructive role that will bring all parties together so that we find a solution to a problem that seems intractable in the Middle East.”

 Community leaders conveyed a strong message of support to the president for his efforts to confront corruption and state capture. They also emphasised the Jewish community’s eagerness to assist government in addressing socio-economic challenges.

Koseff told the president that the Jewish community had the ability, and was willing to play a continuing role in growing and developing the country and making a broader contribution to society. He asked the president what was expected from Jews.

Ramaphosa replied that the community should imbibe the spirit of Hugh Masekela’s song Thuma Mina, (Send Me), in other words, to be the kind of people that ask continually how they can make a meaningful contribution to the country.

He gave special thanks to members of the Jewish business community – many of whom were in the auditorium – that had embraced the notion of “broadening economic participation”.

“They have opened channels, platforms, possibilities, from training young people to enabling black entrepreneurs, and this I’m pleased about. They have been at the forefront of economic inclusion.”

On the contentious issue of land reform, Ramaphosa assured the audience that there would not be “marauding mobs going around taking people’s properties and grabbing land”.

He admitted he was “troubled” and “pained” when he heard of young South Africans – of all races – seeking greener pastures overseas.

It may seem to some people that the space has closed for some. The contrary is true. The space is opening for all of us. We especially want well educated and talented young people to stay in the country.”

He urged parents to encourage the youth to remain here and work together.

“We must deepen their patriotism so that they stay in South Africa and make a contribution on a non-racial platform where they demonstrate that we are very different from all other people in the world because we are the one country where the non-racialism project can become a true reality.”

The government, he said, was focusing on education, re-building the capabilities of the state, and encouraging young entrepreneurs.

“We are not sleeping at the steering wheel. We are wide awake. This plane is flying, and it has capable people who are going to fly it.”


  1. 3 BARRY SHAW 29 Nov
    There can be little sense in South Africa playing any effective role in peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinian political divide as long as the South African ambassador permanence in Israel appears to be in constant doubt.  
    Added to this, the ANC anti-Israel virulence and prominent church leaders calling Israel and "apartheid regime,' leave no room for South Africa to be able to have any constructive role.
    Ramaphosa's carefully crafted words leave serious doubts as to where his political heart lies when it comes to israel.
    His outreach to the Jewish community was evident. His outreach to israel remains an empty page.

  2. 2 David Hersch 29 Nov
    What absolute rubbish!!! South Africa is an economic mess and a country rife with maladministration, corruption and massive national theft that has no role to play anywhere in the world and should concentrate on its own problems and survival. This is the usual nonsense that is honey smeared on the ANC's mouth by the "wisdom" of our highly questionable communal leadership.

    I quote from the last paragraph in the article: "This plane is flying, and it has capable people who are going to fly it.” Noticed how much money has been spent just keeping SAA in the air and how much more they are demanding to do so? What utter "poetic" balderdash!
  3. 1 Russell Fig 29 Nov
    It is good that the president is praising the Jewish Community and giving them credit where it is due. His position shows that he is not a racist. South Africa does not need people who play the race card.

      It is also good that he wants Jews and other Whites to remain in the country and play a role. that being the case Could I ask those of you who attended to conference to put me in touch with him? I am a white South African Jew who lives over here in America who would like to return home and make a contribution. I have a BS in Social Sciences and a partial completion on an MA in Counseling Psychology and would like to return and contribute to the new South Africa and would be willing to work in the government or private sector. If any of you are able to assist me feel free to email me on [email protected] 



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