Only two Jewish MPs sworn in
Only two Jewish Members of Parliament (MPs) were sworn in during Wednesday’s ceremony at the official start of proceedings of the sixth democratic Parliament of South Africa – and both of them are parliamentary ‘newbies’ representing the Democratic Alliance (DA).
Both of the new MP’s, Darren Bergman and Michael Bagraim, will have much to offer from the DA back-benches and are guaranteed to quickly become valuable assets to the party’s parliamentary caucus.
Bagraim, widely considered as one of the top labour lawyers in SA, told SAJR Online this week that he was looking forward to the challenge. “I had to dig up a tie for the occasion,” he said. Asked if he didn’t wear a tie in court, Bagraim responded: “No, I wear a bib in court. If anything I need a sheitel,” said the balding new MP.
Darren Bergman, (pictured right) who has been involved in local politics as a senior DA city councillor in Joburg for 15 years, told SAJR Online just before leaving Joburg to fly to Cape Town on Tuesday morning that he was excited at the prospect of going to parliament. “We are going in with no leader,” Darren told Jewish Report referring to the resignation of Lindiwe Mazibuko as caucus leader after the election. “There are a lot of issues to be dealt with,” said Bergman. “This is a marathon, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Bagraim told Jewish Report that while quite a number of Jewish parliamentarians have served, those who were left retired at the end of the fourth parliament and as far as he is aware, he and Bergman will be the only two this time around.
Bagraim has had to resigns his partnership in the firm that carries his name, selling out to his five fellow partners. But, he insists, he will continue to practice labour law as a consultant to the firm.
Michael Bagraim received a letter from an association of Canadian Jewish Parliamentarians inviting him to form a local branch. But, he says, with only him and Darren Bergman there, it wasn’t worth the trouble. He jokingly suggested that he could be the president and treasurer while Bergman could be the chair and CEO.
Election results beat expectations
Darren Bergman told SAJR that the DA’s success in the general election had beaten his own expectations. “After what we saw in Metros,” says Darren, “the local elections (in 2016) are wide open.”
He foresees a downward trend for the ruling behemoth, the ANC, saying that history has shown over the past twenty years that “any party that starts losing votes does not recover. The only exception to this is the UDM,” he said.
Darren said that he was pleased to see the good results of the EFF and he believed that the political landscape was now a three-horse race.
Given how the Oscar Pistorius trial had excited South Africans about the legal system in the country, said Darren, he had hopes that the Parliamentary Channel would do the same for public debate of politics.
“We can rely on Julias Malema (the charismatic EFF leader) to provide the entertainment,” said Darren.
He believes that there will be an “open race for the 2019 general election” and that an ANC victory would not be a given.