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To fulfil its promise, SA must change its relationship with Israel



The bond between Jewish South Africans and Israel is unbreakable. And the role that this community has played in various fields of South African society over the past 100 years and more is indisputable and indispensable. Therefore, South Africa must change its relationship with Israel if this equation is to balance.

Our country is in a dire situation. According to the World Population Review, we have the worst unemployment rate in the world. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank’s Poverty & Equity Brief reported that more than 30 million people in South Africa were already living in poverty.

It goes without saying that this nation needs to retain every brain cell and every cent to help turn around this untenable situation.

We all know the cruelty of some African governments, which have willingly starved their people to death just to stay in power. How can we forget the 1983 Ethiopian famine, which Human Rights Watch attributed to human-rights abuses? It was the Americans who came to the rescue, not the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor of the African Union.

It was the soft but undefeatable power of people-to-people relationships that saved the day with USA for Africa. Produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian, written by Lionel Richie and the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, 45 musicians sang:

“We are the world; we are the children; we are the ones who make a brighter day…”

The set piece to date has raised more than $100 million (R1.5 billion) to ease poverty, and has donated 75% of that to 500 African organisations in 21 countries. The Guptas stole $3.5 billion (R55.4 billion) in South Africa, can you imagine what that loot could have done to help alleviate poverty in our country?

As we speak, Somalia is suffering from the worst drought in 70 years. According to AP News, hundreds have started dying. We saw when the Western Cape suffered its worst drought that national and provincial governments heartlessly allowed the citizens to suffer rather than build a desalination plant using Israeli technology. The Eastern Cape is reeling from the worst drought ever, but sadly, a crooked and misguided anti-Israeli ideology prevails. Are we waiting for the bodies to start piling up before we act?

The good news is that South Africa is now producing a new cohort of politically mature leaders who are committed to breaking the proverbial African begging bowl and free the continent from the choking clutches of poverty. They understand that it’s education not hollow sloganeering that creates a better life. After all, it was the original GOAT (greatest of all time), Muhammad Ali, who said, “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

Geopolitics are like sand dunes that shift all the time, bringing new opportunities. The Abraham Accords, signed by several Arab countries with Israel, is delivering enormous benefits to all sides. We are now witnessing a positive spill-over to other parts of the world.

Every country has opportunities and challenges. Israel is no exception. China has lifted millions of people out of poverty, yet it’s committing crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide against its Uyghur population. The leader of the free world, the US, where the Black Lives Matter Movement started, has a horrific record of the police killing unarmed black people in the streets and even in their homes. So why is it that we’ve never heard anyone shout, “Boycott China!” or “Boycott America”? Could it be because they secretly harbour the belief that the lives of Uyghurs or Black people don’t really matter? Alternatively, do Israel’s problems give all antisemites a chance to belch their deep-seated hatred for the Jewish people?

We mustn’t be fooled. Those who oppose prosperity are well-funded and fanatical about their evil mission. They see the suffering of millions not as something to be urgently cured, but as fodder for their own vile ideologies. Even though their hearts are empty, they have no room for compassion.

We’re lucky that South Africa was built on a foundation of tolerance and coexistence. We dare not stray from that path if we want to pull the masses out of the pain of poverty and the misery of unemployment.

People-to-people co-operation between South Africans and Israelis must continue. Israel is a water and agricultural superpower. People in South African rural villages, informal settlements, and townships need food, water, and dignified sanitation. It’s time to take brave decisions that feed people, not egos.

At South Africa’s Promise, our mission is to end poverty and therefore fulfil our constitutional obligation of improving “the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person”.

Recently, the organisation got a call from someone in a village in KwaZulu-Natal. Their well had run dirty and dry. Could we perhaps help?

My colleague and I drove to the village. We arrived late at night. It was dark, but once we made it through broken bridges and badly graded gravel roads, we were ready to meet the villagers in the morning. The nearest water source was 1.6km away. It’s a systemic disadvantage for children, who must spend the whole afternoon walking to fetch water instead of spending time on their books.

A problem shared is a problem halved. I then asked a friend who is a member of the Jewish community to assist. He connected us to an Israeli water technology company that assisted the village. His family graciously paid for the project.

Work has started, and water is flowing in the village again. The children have a bit more time to spend on their books.

When we told the villagers about Jewish kindness, and the Israeli technology that had helped them, they replied, “Let us pray for Israel.” Amen.

  • Muzi Kuzwayo is the ultimate optimist, and co-founder of South Africa’s Promise.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ryan

    Jul 6, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Excellent read and a critical message thank you Muzi

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