The Jewish Report Editorial

Defeating the Boeremag mentality

Most of those who have just started writing matric are unaware how close SA came to plunging into chaos and bloodshed when they were in primary school.
by GEOFF SIFRIN | Oct 30, 2013

Most of the learners at Jewish schools who have just started writing matric exams will be unaware of how close this country came to plunging into chaos and bloodshed when they were kids in primary school in 2002.

They are finishing school and going out into the world in a country which, despite all its problems, provides them with a degree of stability that could only be dreamed of in previous decades, and an amazing array of opportunities.

It’s a sign of how far we have come as a country since the bad days of apartheid that the sentencing of the Boeremag members in a Pretoria court on Tuesday, evoked so little attention from the South African public.

Most of the matric students mentioned above have probably never even heard of the Boeremag, a militia of apartheid loyalists, even though the deeds for which they were sentenced occurred only 11 years ago.

The North Gauteng High Court handed down sentences ranging from five to 30 years' imprisonment to members of the group for their 2002 plot to assassinate then-president Nelson Mandela and drive blacks out of the country.

Mr Justice Eben Jordaan said South Africa could have been thrown into chaos if the plot to kill Mandela had succeeded. The assassination of Chris Hani in 1993 by another group of right-wing extremists very nearly resulted in the same thing.

The Boeremag intended killing the president by planting a bomb along a route he was to travel, but the plan came to nothing when he went to his engagement by helicopter instead. The group also detonated explosions at various sites, mostly in Soweto, where one woman was killed.

The reason ordinary South Africans have not been galvanised by the sentencing is because extremist groups like the Boeremag and the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging of far-right leader Eugene Terre’Blanche - who was murdered in 2011 - are withering away. Even the most conservative whites no longer support groups who still believe in white domination.

As the matriculants leave their protected Jewish environment, they will face many personal, and often difficult questions about their future careers and lives. There will also be questions about what it means to be a South African, and a member of a minority group.

Some of the matriculants will leave South Africa for other places, but most will stay. There is, in fact, a new, robust South Africanness developing here which should inspire us. The restlessness of South African Jewry has diminished, as indicated in the 2005 survey by the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at UCT.

That survey showed that in 2005, 79 per cent of South African Jews believed they would be in the country for the next five years, whereas in 1998 only 44 per cent believed they would be here in five years’ time.

The figures are probably even more positive today. Jews are more comfortable in their South African identity than they have been for a long time.

If the Boeremag had had its way, this country would have been a very different place. Who knows what would have happened? It is almost certain that this sense of belonging would not be there.

Jewish schools have an obligation to instil in their learners not just a love of their Jewish identity, but also their South African one. Next year is election year. For most of the young people it will be the first time they can participate as adults in decision-making at that level.

We have a duty to register to vote, to make our crosses in the elections and participate fully in our democracy. This country remains a land of great beauty and opportunity. We are lucky to be here.


  1. 2 Choni 14 Nov
    The closer Jewish youth become to identify with S.Africa, the further they identify with nationhood and Eretz Yisrael. This is not the country they are meant to belong to. Our media and Rabbis MUST  present our youth with the God given choice to live in the Land where they truly belong.
    Our youth live in an era where for the first time in nearly 2000 , the Jewish people have sovereignty over much of Eretz Yisrael.
    THE EXILE (punishment) is over.
    Many mature Jews cannot leave, but there is no justification for young Jews to remain in this exilic graveyard. Come on Mr. Editor, Show some courage.
    Stop defending the exile.
  2. 1 Ant Katz 15 Nov
    Shalom Choni,

    Once again, the gavel has to fall.

    TROLLING: See definition below

    Choni: Miriam you and I have been friends, and at times adversaries, for neigh on five years during which time we have been forced into virulent discourse over the fact that you believe the world of Zionism consists of Choni’s way or the highway (as can be read in your comment above).

    I and several other publishers have had to restrict and ban you countless times for your persistent and insulting TROLLING* in SA Jewish media. 

    While I am fond of you and mad about Miriam (I sometimes wonder how she tolerates all this),
    and while I am mindful and understanding of the reason you returned to exile in SA as SA Jewry offered you something you needed that Israel couldn’t provide, I cannot in clear conscience allow you to continue to take advantage of our more-than-liberal policies on user comments to harass any user, Rabbi or Zionist who does not espouse the single-minded views you have (but, understandably, do not yourself practice) on Zionism.

    I have allowed you some rope over this new website’s first ten days, but, I am sad to say, you have abused it to hang yourself. As painful as it is to me as the online
    editor, and without consultation with the editor (for whom I have the greatest respect) and the directors (ditto) – it once again pains me – for the fourth
    time in five years – to bring your *trolling to a halt in an environment under my control.

    Once again any comment you post will be forwarded to my screen, anything that you have to contribute to any discussion will be allowed. All *trolling will be deleted. If we are forced back into a daily barrage of moderation we will simply deny you any access to comment on the website.

    Your individual anti-social behaviour has delayed our launch of an unmodearated community shoutbox - something that will no doubt be of great value to the community - until we can work out how to make an unmoderated space 'Choni-proof'.

    Once we have our current bloggers and columnists
    running smoothly, we will create a space where you, in your name, will be able to submit extremist articles you would like to see published from time to time, subject to our normal rules. 

    Shabbat Shalom to you and Miriam,
    Ant Katz - online editor

    *TROLLING: - In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, chat room, or blog), either accidentally or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting
    normal on-topic discussion. This sense of the word troll and its associated verb trolling are associated with Internet discourse, but have been used more
    widely. Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment. - puts it more succinctly - Being a pr*k on the internet because you can. Typically
    unleashing one or more cynical or sarcastic remarks on an innocent by-stander, because it's the internet and, hey, you can.
    Guy: "I just found the coolest ninja pencil in existence."
    Other Guy: "I just found the most retarded thread in existence."


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