The Jewish Report Editorial

Does a blotch on a great picture ruin it?

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On a community newspaper, it is inevitable that sometimes we are going to have to do something we really don’t want to do. This happened to me this week.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Aug 03, 2017

When I saw Bertie Lubner’s name being sullied in the mainstream media, I felt quite ill. I was very fond of Bertie. He was unquestionably a great man and one with a heart the size of a rugby field.

On the occasions I had to be in his presence, I could sit listening to his stories all day. I was proud to know him.

So, this week I sat with the dilemma: here was this story about Bertie and other highly respected Jewish business leaders having cosied up to the apartheid government and these stories appeared to be based on some pretty hard facts. 

I would have preferred to leave the story alone, but realised that as the editor of this newspaper, it was incumbent on me and our team to write a story about the facts, but to put them in the context of everything else that Bertie and the other business leaders had done for this country and community.

No matter how you look at it, these are good men. These are not crooks! I remember Bertie telling me that he does business with a handshake - that that was enough to know you could trust someone in a deal. 

So, Bertie had dinner with PW Botha and wrote a schmoozing letter, making as if he admired what Botha was doing. His and the other businessmen’s relationship with the apartheid government did not look good. That is because Botha perpetuated one of the ugliest political systems this world has known and many of us lived through it, so we know.

On the other hand, Bertie and the other leaders spent their lives giving the disadvantaged in our country a lift up. In Bertie’s case, I know and witnessed some of the amazing work he and Afrika Tikkun has done.

Bertie gave people skills, an education, a full stomach and, more than that, he gave them a chance to be a contributing member of society.

In an interview I did with Bertie in 2009, I had the sense that he was fighting against time because there was so much good he was trying to fit into one lifetime.

At the time, he was at the forefront of business leaders who were interacting with the ANC government and working with them on service delivery.

“It is not easy, the public sector has no idea about service delivery,” he said. “So, I say, let’s work together to make it happen.”

He was also trying to get government to work together with the private sector to fight poverty. “We dare not lose this fight. I am giving so much energy to getting an indefinite strategy together.”

So, I ask myself, his interaction with an apartheid leader was not good, but does that make him a demon? And if I didn’t know him, would I be going guns blazing to balance what other media has said about him?

I believe it is my duty as a journalist and editor of this newspaper to give you the facts, with the balance that shows the humanity in all of us.

I cannot tell you that Bertie and these other Jewish business leaders were saints, nor can I sanction what they did with the apartheid government.

But I will tell you this: I believe Bertie Lubner was a man of integrity, one who did so much good for this country, and a true mensch! And whatever his relationship with Botha was, it doesn’t change the good he did.

Shabbat Shalom!






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