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Rabbi leads ANC stalwarts in song

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NICOLA MILTZ

This wasn’t a festive event at Great Park Shul, it was one of the most memorable moments at last week’s ANC stalwarts and veterans national consultative conference.

And the audience at Constitution Hill was filled with die-hard ANC veterans and stalwarts. These included: Thabo Mbeki, Ben Turok, Trevor Manuel, Lindiwe Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Sheila Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Kgalema Motlanthe, Gertude Shope and Pravin Gordhan. Hazdan led them all with a well-known refrain from Modimo re boka wena, an African gospel lyric which thanks The Creator of all Things.

In that short, powerful moment during the three-day long conference, entitled Reclaiming our History for the Sake of our Future, there was a glimmer of hope and unity as the elders reminisced with nostalgia about the glory days of the party they once fought for.

“The rabbi’s speech was enormously successful,” said long-serving ANC veteran and Johannesburg city councillor, Joy Copland who arranged for him to form part of the religious panel of speakers during the conference.

“I felt very deeply in that moment for this group of remarkable people, these veterans and stalwarts, who led the struggle to fight apartheid. They went underground, they went into exile, they put their lives at risk and they feel that the state of the ANC today does not reflect the values of what they fought for and what they sacrificed their lives for.”

In a no-holds-barred keynote address, author and former vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, Njabulo S Ndebele, the tone was set for the conference. “The scourge of corruption in South Africa today has gone beyond being a matter of law and order,” he lamented. “What has happened in South Africa today is that the government that was elected to act according to, support and promote law, order, and Constitutional rule, has abdicated that responsibility. It has itself become a thief that steals.

“Under this government, syndicated thieving has become the very purpose of government, because government has become an instrument that protects itself from the consequences of its own transgressions.”

Many of those present also expressed their dismay at the state of affairs within the fractured ANC and the country itself.

Former ANC councillor, Sol Cowan, said the atmosphere throughout the three days was “charged”.

“It was pretty refreshing to realise in the abyss of toxicity going on around us, there is a large group within the ANC that are venting their frustrations and giving voice to their discontent about the state of affairs in our country and within the ANC itself.”

He said he left with a sense of hope.

“I think the tide is starting to turn against corruption. The conference has put pressure on the ANC leadership and has highlighted the problems to the outside world and the ANC itself.

The conference will serve to influence members going to the ANC elective conference in December, in that they must elect a new leadership. This leadership needs to revitalise the country and the organisation based on the principles of what the ANC used to stand for namely integrity and transparency.”

In his speech Rabbi Hazdan said that South Africans had so much to be grateful for to the ANC for delivering all of its citizens from the “tyranny and devastation of apartheid”.

He said the Freedom Charter and the Constitution made this country “a beacon of reconciliation and hope for the whole world.

“South Africa taught the world how to find our collective soul of humanity, how to kindle hope amidst apathy and despair and how to reconstruct a broken world.”

He added that Nelson Mandela had stirred the nation to unite and to build together.

“Sadly today, our New South Africa is burdened by the recurring pain of corruption, and a leadership that is distracted by a self-serving focus and the pursuit of personal gain and enrichment.

“We have been embarrassed by state capture, the wanton spending of public funds, the loss of morality and the appointments of leaders for personal gain. We have lost the focus and the will to address poverty and deprivation.”

Hazdan added that the Jewish community had the same aspirations and hopes as all other religions and cultures. “We want to rekindle the flame and soul of South Africa to achieve a moral, just, caring and safe society for our rainbow nation.

“All South Africans deserve leaders who will once again make the future wellbeing of the children of South Africa the priority of our beautiful great nation of heroes.”

In the conference’s final adopted declaration, the ANC stalwarts and veterans said they had come together “united by our love and concerns” for South Africa.

“We are deeply troubled by the abandonment of the ANC’s historic values and principles, which has undermined popular confidence in government, parliament, state-owned entities and other public institutions.” It said that this was an “unprecedented political crisis” and that the current leadership was “paralysed and unable” to deal with ill-discipline, incompetence and corruption that pointed directly at the President.

In the declaration, the stalwarts insisted that the ANC needed a thorough organisational renewal and called for the ANC to establish a committee to develop a renewal document. This should include a plan of action that would take urgent and practical steps to professionalise and modernise the party.

They also called for the electoral system to be reviewed and for an electoral review commission to be set up. They said that building a non-racial society, remained a fundamental principle of the ANC and that civil society was to be treated as a natural ally for the enhancement of nation-building and service delivery.

“We will not allow the ANC to die under our watch,” they declared, and they called for the immediate resignation of Jacob Zuma “for the sake of our future”.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. hOWARD cROOCK

    Nov 24, 2017 at 9:40 am

    ‘Yasher Koach to Rabbi Dovid Hazdan .’

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