Sisulu is SA Jewry’s ‘biggest enemy’ in government

  • SAJBDCyril
International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is “the single biggest enemy” in government to South African Jewry. So says the national vice-president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), Zev Krengel, this week.
by NICOLA MILTZ | May 16, 2019

His remark comes in the wake of the rainbow-nation-like post-election celebrations held last Saturday night at the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission’s) Results Gala at the Results Operations Centre in Tshwane.

It was there that politicians from all walks of life and representing every political party celebrated the country’s democracy, and free and fair elections.

Krengel and SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn rubbed shoulders with the likes of President Cyril Ramaphosa and other political elites in a spirit of unity and camaraderie.

“There was a palpable optimism in the hall,” said Krengel. One could sense the newfound commitment from those present to rebuild the country under the leadership of the president.

It contrasted sharply with the sentiments expressed by communal leaders just weeks before the election, when Sisulu dropped a bombshell on the local community by declaring that all relations with Israel were being severed. She also said that the downgrade of the South African Embassy in Israel was already in process.

Sisulu’s statements thrust the local community into a panic, prompting communal leaders to plead with Israel not to overreact.

“Israel has listened to our plea,” said Krengel, “We begged Israel not to recall its ambassador to South Africa. We pleaded with the Israeli prime minister’s office, saying that course of action would be playing directly into radicals’ hands and doing exactly what the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions SA (BDS-SA) would want. So far, Israel has been incredible to the local Jewish community.”

Krengel criticised Sisulu for trying to garner votes prior to the election.

There was a sense of relief this week, however, as jovial photographs emerged of communal leaders fraternising with Ramaphosa and other African National Congress (ANC) stalwarts including ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma following the country’s tightly contested sixth national and provincial elections last week.

Said Krengel, “On Saturday night, and throughout the election process, we felt warm encouragement for the inclusion of our community. Despite certain concerns we have at present with the government and the issues we need to address, we need to remain engaged and involved in all facets of governance.”

He said the community would continue to engage with Sisulu on Middle-East issues “if she wanted to do so”, and despite her recent declarations.

Sisulu made further inflammatory statements shortly after her embassy comments, saying that the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) was heavily funded by Israel. These statements were rubbished by Wits Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib, who said it was “absolute nonsense”.

“She has an agenda,” said Krengel. “The downgrade of the South African embassy in Israel has not been implemented. She is obsessed with criticising the Jewish state.

“Her announcements marked a very unpleasant period before the elections for South African Jewry. The minister made outrageous, inflammatory, and incorrect statements. She said the embassy downgrade had been implemented, but this has not been adopted as government policy..”

He said he had two theories. “Either the minister was electioneering and trying to cosy up to the BDS-SA movement and other radical elements within the Muslim community, or she was adding to internal ANC struggles, and trying to embarrass the president.”

He said Ramaphosa had on a number of occasions assured the Jewish community that the country was eager to play a constructive and meaningful role in peace negotiations in the Middle East.

A week before the 8 May elections, he confirmed to the SA Jewish Report that the decision to downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Tel Aviv had “not been considered yet by cabinet”.

“Once the cabinet has fully engaged and come out with a view on this matter, it will be communicated to the public. In other words, we remain seized with the modalities of downgrading the South African embassy in Israel, and this matter has not been finalised,” Ramaphosa said.

The president also said that South Africa continued to play a constructive role in the Middle East, and was using “every opportunity” to engage “with all states in the region, including the Palestinians and the Israelis”.

“We continue to host high-level talks and receive numerous delegations from Israel and Palestine. We hope to intensify this in the future,” he said.

This contradicts Sisulu’s statements that the downgrade has already been implemented, and that relations between the countries are being severed.

Independent political analyst Daniel Silke said the Israel issue was clearly raised during the election campaign.

“Bashing Israel is a vote catcher. The issue came back into the public discourse because it was seen as an issue that might resonate with voters in places like the Western Cape which could be of assistance to the ANC. It’s not a new thing for Israel to be used as a potential vote catcher.

“It has never helped the ANC. It is a non-issue when it comes to domestic voting, but it was raised in an attempt to make the ANC attractive. It clearly doesn’t work.”

Silke said there were differences of opinion within the ANC over the role South Africa should or shouldn’t play in the Middle East, and it was causing a certain amount of friction within certain elements in the ANC.

He said South Africa might return to a more pragmatic and balanced approach regarding Israel now that the elections were over.

“South Africa has bucked the African trend when it comes to trade and diplomatic relations with Israel. BDS-SA can chalk up some successes in its global campaign specifically in South Africa. It has been less successful in other African states which have expanded relations with Israel in recent months.”


  1. 3 ilana lurie 16 May
    Ramaphosa says one thing to the community and another to the government. He has no backbone and the Board fall for these things every time encouraging everyone to be optimistic  - with a minister like Sisulu  in his cabinet what more is there to be said?
  2. 2 Selwyn shuman 18 May
    Please stop confusing criticism of the state of Israel with anti-semitism. It devalues the importance of real anti-semitism
  3. 1 Marcel Vandenbrouck 18 May
    The ANC needs to realise that Israel is Gods chosen people, the apple of His eye and He said He will bless those who bless Israel. History teaches us that England was a world power when it supported Israel and has declined when it abandoned them. America rose to greatness when it supported Israel and even with all his faults Trump is for Israel. Israel will overcome all its enemies because God will uphold them. God bless Israel and all Jews worldwide! 


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