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Troll hunting needn’t be a blood sport



Earlier this week, we were alerted to an incident involving several highly offensive posts belittling the Holocaust on a matric WhatsApp group. Unfortunately, the relative anonymity of cyber communication lends itself to such abuses. The question is how best to deal with it when it arises.

From the point of view of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, bringing perpetrators round to understanding what they did wrong and sincerely apologising for it is always preferable to simply punishing them. In the first instance, therefore, we will always try to address the matter through a process of restorative rather than punitive justice, and this is how we were able to resolve this latest case. Having engaged with the main culprit, as well as his school and parents, we are satisfied that there is genuine contrition on his part. A satisfactory apology has been posted by him on the same WhatsApp group, and the Board has arranged for him to attend a facilitated session at the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre.

Seeking answers (and solutions)

A low point in another tumultuous year was the shocking outbreak of looting and vandalism that swept through KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July. Last week, together with other members of our national executive, I participated in a consultation with an expert panel appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to investigate the preparedness and shortcomings of the official response to the violence. As representatives of a faith-based community, we were invited by the presidency to share information and perspectives on what happened, make suggestions on measures that might be put in place to respond to future such occurrences, and the role that leaders in faith-based communities can play in maintaining peace and order. It was a valuable opportunity for us, as representatives of the Jewish community, to share in the discussion and give our input.

The coalition era – challenges and opportunities

With no party having a clear majority in five metros and overall support for the ruling party having dropped below 50% for the first time, the municipal elections have transformed our political landscape. In many important regions, coalition government will henceforth be the order of the day. This will entail a give-and-take process of compromise, consensus-broking, and balancing of different interests, and as such, will be complicated and no doubt sometimes messy. It has, on the other hand, brought a welcome degree of fluidity to the local political scene. We can also take heart from South Africa’s previous track record of finding negotiated solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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