The Jewish Report Editorial

The chorus doesn’t change the song

  • Vanessa
Last week, the board of the South African Jewish Report debated whether we should join the rising tidal wave of voices in leadership positions, including the ANC’s Gauteng Executive Committee, in calling for President Jacob Zuma’s resignation.
by VANESSA VALKIN | Apr 20, 2016

In the end we decided against it, although some members correctly felt we could not remain silent in the face of a president who has flouted the Constitution and enriched himself and his family with no regard for his people and his country. 

In this issue, in light of Freedom Day next Wednesday, we asked a number of politically engaged Jews for their views on South Africa’s progress 22 years after the first democratic elections. You can read their sentiments on pages 10 and 11.  

A common thread is disappointment in South Africa’s progress towards equal opportunities for all, a non-racist society, job creation, an adequately growing economy and improved education.  

Yes, there is no doubt that South Africans had hoped for better lives for all by now and Zuma, the captain steering our boat, is clearly the wrong man for the job. But it is an entirely different debate whether we as a newspaper, representing the South African Jewish community, or our Chief Rabbi, who has spoken on our behalf to the media, should be loudly and vocally calling for President Zuma’s resignation. 

After the National Religious Leaders Council (NRLC) and the South African Council of Churches met with ANC leadership last week to pressure them into forcing Zuma to stand down, Rabbi Goldstein was widely quoted by the press. 

He said that his community, as well as the others represented by the NRLC, which accounted for some 80 per cent of South Africans, were pleading for Zuma to stand down. Rabbi Goldstein criticised Zuma, telling journalists that the party should “put the good of the country before anything else”, and then penning his own piece, calling the actions of the ANC “deeply disturbing”.  

And why should we not be vocal among the many calling for Zuma’s departure - you may ask. The reason, in my opinion, is not because we should be fearful of speaking out where necessary, but because what do we really have to gain by joining the chorus? 

President Zuma has treated the Jewish minority in this country with the utmost respect, never refusing to attend our important events, address our community or send security to our celebrations when we have had concerns. We have not been victims of discrimination and have been free to prosper, build our lives and practise our religion.

Instead of taking the baton publically for fear of not being counted, is it not more powerful for the Jewish community’s representatives to enter the dialogue in a constructive way? 

We could instead communicate to the ANC that whenever the decision is taken for Zuma to step down, we hope to be supportive and helpful in the transition of leadership. We all know what Zuma’s sins are but rather than attacking, we could tell him we have some good memories of his past with us and we look forward to building new bridges with whomever comes next. What is the purpose of alienating ourselves with any factions when our voice is such a small one in the grander scheme anyway?

And finally, there might be some small advantage to Zuma staying in power until the municipal elections if the ANC ignores the public swell of opinion. The drop in popularity at the voting booths may provide the much needed wake-up call that both the ruling party and this country needs.

And there is another consideration. We all want brilliant leadership but will we get it? We may still regret that we called for a new man in power. Last week Economic Freedom Front leader Julius Malema, who some think might run this country one day, was talking in Soweto to drum up support for his election manifesto launch. 

He actually told his supporters to have more babies, accusing whites of discouraging black procreation so that whites could take over politically. This is such a depressing and divisive message when compared with the conciliatory and unifying voices of other South African leaders and icons who have emphasised a rainbow nation. Let’s be careful and considered in what we wish for… we may be in for some tough surprises. 

Chag Sameach to all of our readers. Let’s remember to celebrate our freedom in the coming days, both the freedom of the Jewish People and the hard-won freedoms of all South African citizens, 

We will print a newspaper again on May 6.


– Vanessa Valkin, editor



1 Comment

  1. 1 nat cheiman 26 Apr
    The man is a reprobate


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