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Police chief promises to take Cape threats seriously



National Police Commissioner General Sehlahle Fannie Masemola assured Jewish leadership that he would take any threat to the Jewish community seriously at a meeting with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) in Pretoria on Wednesday, 5 July.

The meeting was called in light of the rapid increase in threats to the safety and security of the Cape Town Jewish community over the past six months. SAJBD National Vice-President Zev Krengel says “a line was crossed” when members of extremist organisation PAGAD (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs) began weekly protests outside the community’s main campus, which includes a shul, museums, a library, and a kosher restaurant.

The SAJBD met the South African Police Service (SAPS) commissioner as well as SAPS Western Cape Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Thembisile Patekile, who flew to Pretoria especially for the meeting, and members of both men’s teams.

“It was a brilliant meeting,” says SAJBD National Chairperson Professor Karen Milner. “The tone was positive. It wasn’t about fear, but about explaining that we have some concerns, which they said they would take seriously. We were treated with such respect, including them providing kosher food, which isn’t easy to get in Pretoria.”

“Though there has been excellent co-operation on a provincial level, we felt this is also a national issue and therefore we needed to engage with the national commissioner,” says SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn.

“We have dealt with the Western Cape leadership and SAPS Western Cape, but SAPS operates on a national level, and it’s important, therefore, that it be taken up by our national board,” says Cape SAJBD Executive Director Daniel Bloch. “We always encourage our community to be vigilant, but believe there’s no need for panic. We continue to monitor the situation and engage with the relevant authorities.”

Krengel emphasises that there’s no concrete threat, and that South Africa has “bucked the trend” of skyrocketing antisemitism around the world. In addition, the protests outside the Jewish community centre have stopped. He says the meeting was rather about the SAJBD being the “canary in the coalmine”, and taking a proactive approach to “nip this in the bud”.

“The SAJBD hasn’t needed to meet the national police commissioner in at least a decade, but at the end of the day, SAPS is the final protector against hate crimes and terrorism, and so it was important to bring this to their attention,” he says. PAGAD’s history is also important to consider, “and we can’t allow these kinds of actions to continue unabated”.

PAGAD issued a “warning” to the Cape Town Jewish community in May 2023 after the Cape SAJBD objected to the protests outside the community campus earlier this year. It said the public would “take matters into their own hands” by making “citizen’s arrests” of “Israeli citizens with their dual citizenship. This statement is merely a warning,” PAGAD continued, “we’re closely monitoring the Zionist establishments and organisations operating in South Africa. We offer our full support in decentralising the struggle against Satanic Zionist ‘Israel’.” The organisation said it supported its “soldiers on the ground fighting for a South Africa free from the vices of the Zionist world order – one being gangsterism and drugs”.

In addition, at anti-Israel rallies earlier this year, protesters called out, “One Zionist, one bullet!” and burned Israeli flags. At the protests outside the Jewish community centre and outside the community’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations, they held aloft pictures of terrorist leaders and flags of terrorist organisations that have a long history of killing Jews.

Politicians have also threatened the community, from calling for Jewish communal leaders to be arrested or their businesses to be boycotted, to touting antisemitic conspiracy theories, to calling for a Jewish school to be “de-registered”. Jewish students have also been threatened, with the University of Cape Town (UCT) Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF) inviting terrorist leaders to speak at UCT and draping terrorist flags on campus. The UCT PSF also released a video on social media of them shouting, “Viva Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah!”

“Unfortunately, we’re witnessing a rise in anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist activity globally,” says Bloch. “South Africa isn’t immune to this trend. Our leadership is closely monitoring the situation and working with the relevant authorities to protect the wonderful and dynamic Jewish life we have in South Africa.”

Krengel says he hopes the outcome of the meeting will be to “bring attention to this issue and ensure it’s a high priority for the national commissioner. Already we have seen how seriously they are taking it. It’s not like he has nothing else to do, but he made the time to meet us, with his generals, and give it attention. We have to remember that 20 years ago, there was urban terrorism in Cape Town. A meeting at the highest level will ensure that attention is given to a potentially changing scenario and to protecting the community.”

He believes his expectations were met. “They knew the history, and have been in the force for decades, including during the PAGAD bombings in the 1990s. They knew this was an issue, but we were able to present it in more detail.”

Kahn says she made a presentation on local and international incidents targeting Jews and Jewish installations, and the police then referred to the presentation in their discussion and asked that it be sent to them. “It was reassuring that they took it seriously and will be investigating further,” she says. “We’ll keep communicating, and we now have the right addresses to keep the discussion going and share information.”

“The police appreciated that we brought it to their attention at this early stage, and are committed to working with us and protecting our way of life so that Jews all over South Africa feel comfortable being a proud Jew and a proud South African without fear,” says Krengel.

Masemola was appointed national police commissioner in April 2022. He was head of the police’s VIP protection unit; played a leading role in the co-ordination of security for all elections since 1994; and headed up security for many of the country’s major events such as the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the United Nations summits and climate conferences.

From 2013 to 2016, Masemola served as Limpopo police commissioner, where he reportedly played a significant role in decreasing stock theft in the province. He served as deputy national police commissioner for the country for the following six years. His most recent position was chairperson of the NatJOINTS (National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure) on COVID-19, where he aided in co-ordinating the government’s efforts across a number of sectors, internationally and domestically.

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  1. Freddy

    July 6, 2023 at 8:24 pm

    South Africa , I say please don’t attempt to fight against our Jewish brothers they are the apple of GOD’S EYE, DON’T TRY TO POKE At GODS eye , there will be peoblems

    • Choni Davidowitz

      July 11, 2023 at 1:49 pm

      Well said Freddy. May I add: “Those who Bless Israel will be Blessed, and those who curse Israel will be cursed.” (Gen. 12:3).

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