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Why SA Jewry faces highest security level

Howard Feldman, pictured left, is the non-executive chairman of the SA Jewish Report and Zev Krengel, right, president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies in conversation regarding the heightened threat level for SA Jewry. The SAJBD will be communicating regularly with the community on SAJR.CO.ZA. Find out exactly what a “Level 4” threat means to the community, and to you and your family. And hear what you should be doing about it.

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HOWARD FELDMAN

Concerning Security

SA Jewish Report’s non-executive chairman, Howard Feldman, and the president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Zev Krengel, in conversation…

South African Jews have been blessed until now with the luxury of naivety. Sadly the time has now come for us to join others in the Diaspora where heightened community security has been a way of life for so long.

Much has been said with regard to the specifics as to our current situation in South Africa and anyone who has driven past a shul recently would have noticed the bollards positioned ahead of the festivals.  Many people, however remain unclear as to the real facts, and in an attempt to provide such information, the SAJR will over the coming weeks be speaking to Zev Krengel who is at the forefront of this situation. 

According to Krengel, “We will be using this platform to communicate any information that is relevant to the situation and we ask the community to refer to this site and specifically this column regularly, as we will update as and when necessary”.

No comments please

It needs to be noted that although we welcome comments, we will not be publishing them. The site along with all of social media is not only read by those who support us and the information presented needs to be monitored.

Tutu as Hitler FransmanFor that reason we encourage people to respond in the comment blocks with questions, observations and thoughts, and we will endeavour to address them privately.  Should we see a common theme emerge, we will try as much as possible to provide guidance and answers.

‘Level 4’

The situation is as follows: There is a “Level 4” threat to the community. This is the highest level of threat without specific information as to timing and target available. It needs to be kept in mind that this level is not higher than most places in Europe. According to Zev Krengel we have outstanding leadership in all areas who are committed and devoted to the safety of our community.

“The CSO is working tirelessly, together with all other communal bodies, such as CAP and Hatzollah and has activated relevant resources from state security to local law enforcement and public space security companies,” says Krengel. “There is also an extensive medical plan in place, utilising all medical resources. We have support from the highest levels of SA government.”

What can the community do?

When asked what we can all do to assist, Krengel’s message was clear: Vigilance and awareness. Suspicious vehicles, suspicious people and anyone taking photos of installations, needs to be reported immediately. We know our areas, we know who belongs and we need to take advantage of that knowledge.

That in truth is one of the most critical aspects of security. But most importantly we need to be at shul and we need to celebrate the Festivals as they are meant to be celebrated. “I will be at shul with my children,” says Krengel. “They are very excited about the chagim as always and I see no reason why this year should be different”.

Call the single ICC emergency number from anywhere:
086 18 000 18 remember it as 086-Chai-thousand-Chai

Whereas most of us are concerned with what to wear and what to eat over the next few days (and how to avoid the irritating Aunt who seems to appear year after year), Jewish community leadership has worked tirelessly to make sure that we can walk to shul safely and be safe in shul. As a result of this dedication and with the help of G-d, may our biggest worry be how long the rabbi is going to speak for.

Please keep an eye on this column for updates.

ALSO READ ON THIS WEBSITE: INCREASED THREAT TO SA JEWRY

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Tanya Silver

    Sep 21, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Question forwarded to Zev, Howard and CSO   -ED

  2. maureen summerfield

    Sep 22, 2014 at 7:42 am

    ‘B\”H may we all walk in the sunshine in good health, peace, love,and happiness ….. everywhere…….. Mazeltov on the outstanding work you do, we feel safe.

    Chag Sameach …Shalom.   Maureen (Malka)

    I have no question,  just good wishes’

  3. Jared Smith

    Sep 22, 2014 at 8:54 am

    ‘Thank you for all the hard work.  Shana Tova. A safe and healthy new year to everyone! ‘

  4. Tony Lipschitz

    Sep 22, 2014 at 10:59 am

    ‘Are we, (from the point-of-view of halachah) allowed to carry cell-phones so as to warn of anything suspicious in view of the \”level 4\” security alert?’

  5. Akiva Peretz

    Sep 22, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    ‘May we use this as an opportunity for a fresh start, let us stop speaking so much loshon hora against one another, that will ultimately ensure our continued suffering. New year, new lease on life, stop the losh.’

  6. Jeff Guttenberg

    Sep 22, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    ‘Hashem bless you all. Happy new year and well over the fast’

  7. Choni

    Sep 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    I am very pleased that this ‘new’ site has been opened in which I can express my thoughts and observations to Messrs Krengle and Feldman without being censored.
    \n


    \n
    \nBlah Blah boring – Choni, you are trolling again – get over it or face being banned from commenting again – you cannot continue your harassment of every writer and on every post with your personal and boring trolling. This is a final warning. Either contribute, or don’t post   -ED
    \n


    \n

  8. Choni

    Sep 23, 2014 at 7:07 am

    ‘I thought this was supposed to be not the usual comments but only for Messrs Feldman and Krengle. You are not being fare Ant. Mr. Feldman is asking for thoughts and observations on security measures, and I am responding. Please can you pass a message on to the effect that I have very important thoughts on security.An invitation was made, what right have you to exclude me.? What are you afraid of from an old man like me?
    \nPlease pass this on to Mr.Feldman for his reaction.Choni
    \n


    \n

    Here’s the story Choni. No serious observations or suggestions will be published. They are being forwarded on to Messers Krengel (note spelling) and Feldman in the course of our normal moderation process and then removed so that they do not display on the website.
    \nNow, you can suggest 150 times a day that the answer is to make Aliyah, and I will have to read and delete that 150 times a day because all of your comments are forwarded to my desk.
    \nI will NOT pass your trollling on and I will not humour you any more. I simply don’t have time to play these games with you. I am deleting all of your many further attempts at trolling your meshugas about Aliyah and harassing both myself and our readers.
    \nEnough is enough! I know you have all day to play these games, but I certainly don’t and, under the present circumstances, those entrusted with our security, including that of yourself, Miriam and your daughter, most certainly do not want to hear it and waste time on it.
    \nNo more explanations, sympathy or even a hearing. Until the present crisis is over, any comment from you will be automatically deleted without even being read. Shanah Tovah    -ED.
    \n


    \n
    \n

  9. Victor

    Sep 23, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    ‘Really feel that us Jews are blessed to be able to work as one almost all round the world and it’s something we all should feel very proud of. 

    To to stand as one be united and be able to keep our eyes open BH

    shana Tova’

  10. Mordechai

    Sep 24, 2014 at 3:05 am

    ‘Dear Editor, In light of your response to Choni I would be interested to find out if you think/believe that making Aliyah is the right thing to do
    \n


    \n

    Shalom Mordechai – I certainly believe in, actively promote and have worked closely with The Israel Centre SA (part of the Jewish Agency) for the past eight years. I, too, would hope to make Aliyah one day.
    \n
    \nIn answer to your question, I think making Aliyah is a personal choice.
    \n
    \nThe history with Choni and the SA Jewish media is that he is a troll. He has major issues with the Lubavitch organisation and the galut. Towards this end, he harasses anyone and anything, often totally unrelated to tp the topics, on almost every story posted. So, if the Chief Rabbi of SA issues a Yom Tov message, Choni will try and castigate him saying, for example, that there should be no Jews in SA, no Chief Rabbi or the Chief Rabbi should have told everyone to make aliyah.
    \n
    \nOr if the Beth Din issues a kashrut notice or a notice about an eruv being down, Choni will castigate them for making it easier for people to live in the galut. If Jewish kids stand for a university SRC, he will tell them they should not be living in SA. Many of these comments are completely unrelated to to the stories and we are bombarded with many posts a day from him, and several complaints a day from fellow users  feeling harassed. We even have a number of contributors who will only write for us on condition that we do not allow Choni to troll them. He knows this.
    \n
    \nThat, in essence, is what this is about    -ED
    \n


    \n
    \n

  11. You know who

    Sep 24, 2014 at 9:30 am

    ‘Hello Mordechai,

    I don’t think Ant will publish this comment, but if he does I doubt if he is the right person to ask for advice about Aliyah. I’m so glad you brought the subject up.

    Please contact me at babchon@telkomsa.net . I will gladly furnish you with much literature about Aliyah.

    P.S. All that Ant. has written about me is true.

    My whole mission in life at this time is to promote Aliyah by any means possible. If I offend some people at times all I can do is apologise.

    PPS I myself made Aliyah at the age of 75.’

  12. You know who

    Sep 24, 2014 at 10:35 am

    ‘ To SAJR on line .Thanks for the publicity. It’s the best Yom Tov present I could have received. I’ve already had some positive calls.

    Choni Davidowitz

    babchon@telkomsa.net

  13. Cyril Ziman

    Sep 25, 2014 at 7:33 am

    ‘The fact that you might be irritated with  this person referred to by you as Choni does not entitle you to engage in loshon hora or defame and embarrass him. You need simply do as you threaten, namely not publish his so-called trolling, and refrain from publishing libelous statements about him. I do not know who he is and my complaint does not arise from any personal relationship. It is directed at a clear abuse by you of your status which brings discredit to your publication. ‘

  14. Choni Davidowitz

    Sep 27, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    ‘To Cyril Ziman,

    Thanks for your support. My full name is Choni Davidowitz (82) and Ant. has been ‘picking’ on me for the last 5 years.

    As far as I know I am the only user who has constantly stood up for, and vigorously promoted Aliyah for the young generation. This has obviously annoyed him, to the point that he has often threatened to silence me entirely. However, I believe that in his heart he really agrees with me that Aliyah is vital, so he continues to tolerate my comments, in spite of my trolling.

    The only time that Ant. really ‘defamed’ me was when he wrote a ‘blog’ on Dec. 1st 2013, which really was hurtful and untrue. ( it can be read under ‘blogs’ on this website.).

    Once again Cyril, thank you for your imput and support

    It is very rare on this site. Have a great year.

  15. David

    Sep 28, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    ‘Thank you Cyril. A Torah response to this disgusting Loshon Hora. PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR LOSHON HORA: Do not attack people for having different views. There is an issue of loshon hora here. See Shmiras Haloshon by the Chofetz Chaim. Choni is entitled to his views and to ask anyone what they like. If there are other objectionable matters do not publicise them. STOP speaking loshon hora or frum yidden will stop reading SAJR online.’

  16. Ant Katz

    Sep 29, 2014 at 10:56 am

    ‘Thank you Cyril, and David.
    \n
    \nWe shall consider your advice and simply return to the previous position of this website, as is the policy of the printed version of the Jewish Report and simply delete any future trolling by Choni that involves either upsetting writers and users by his trolling on the subjects of Aliyah, the Rabbinate or Chabad – when it is either-off topic or includes loshen hora.
    \n
    \nI have known Choni and Miriam for over five years and am fond of them both. Having previously banned him on many occasions, I have of late been trying to ‘train’ Choni not to intimidate or insult other users by trolling. We believe that if the Chief Rabbi posts a message or in named in a story, for example, it is an act of trolling when Choni insults Rabbi Goldstein and tells him he should not be making life easier in the galut and should be encouraging the community to move to Israel.
    \n
    \nOn a recent story headlined: ANC, ALLIES SUPPORT RETAIL BOYCOTT, for example, the first of 12 current comments was from Choni, which was not moderated and can be read at this link. Choni asked several well-known Jewish voices: “Are you still as proudly Jewish S.Africans as you were, or is that pride waning? … Time to wake up Jewish leaders. Our young Jews must leave.” Neither this comment nor the people named had anything whatsoever to do with the story. The reason this was not deleted was simply to observe an SA media practice of always publishing critique of ourselves or items that refer to senior staff – in this case the Chairman of our Board was named.
    \n
    \nThe 12th comment on the above-mentioned story is from another senior member of the community, whose anonymity we will respect, who writes to Choni: “I presume you live in Israel, Choni, otherwise who are you to tell everyone else that Israel is the only place to be, and we are all in Exile. I certainly am not in exile, and I don’t live in Israel.”
    \n

    \nSadly, due to circumstances beyond their control, Choni and Miriam do, in fact, live in Joburg. However, frustratingly, Choni does refuse to accept that anyone else should have circumstances that keep them in SA and is angered by anyone else who in any way makes it easier for other Jews to live in SA.
    \n
    \nAs a matter of interest, Choni wrote to me just prior to Yom Tov and included in his message: “I really do apologise for all the ‘agro’ and pain I have caused… I am really passionate about my mission which I feel was given to me by Hashem… your outlet is the primary conduit for my ‘work’… I know that sometimes I’ve been a ‘pain … but thats the way I am. My task is enormous, and sometimes I use unwelcome language to some. However, as long as I can, I feel I must carry on. Your ‘help’ as been invaluable. Please don’t cut me off. I will do my best not to mention any names in the future.”
    \n
    \nHow does one deal with this? How does one publish without ever allowing what would otherwise be considered loshen hora, these are issues all Jewish editors have to face. Even those of frum media.
    \n
    \nAnt Katz
    \nonline.editor@sajr.co.za ‘

  17. Elaine

    Sep 29, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    ‘Choni, his wife and daughter live in…..South Africa. And benefit from the services of our communal institutions, funded by people who have not made Aliyah.’

  18. Choni

    Sep 29, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    ‘Elaine, You are quite right in exposing my place of residence, but remember there are thousands of Israelis like myself who have been living in S.Africa for many years. They too have been and still are receiving benefits from Jewish organizations. Should they also have no right to promote Aliyah?’

  19. Akiva Peretz

    Oct 1, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Editor, in a bid to ensure loshon hora is kept at a minimum here, and to keep this website and its comment section clean and not full  on nonsense, it might be better in future just to remove posts that are made by people who admit to trolling and having missions to agitate others. I respect all views, but this is getting out of hand and I believe rather removing these posts will allow you not to be forced into speaking loshon hora.
    \n
    \nThanks.
    \n


    \n
    \nFeedback sincerely appreciated  -ED
    \n
    online.editor@sajr.co.za 
    \n


    \n

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Major parties undermined by “angrier, poorer” electorate

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South Africans go to the polls on 1 November in “elections that no parties really want”, according to political journalist Stephen Grootes. In the midst of a pandemic, established parties are losing support “and people have become angrier and poorer” since the last local government elections in 2016.

Grootes was moderating a webinar on Tuesday, 12 October, titled “Navigate the local government elections 2021”, organised by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. The webinar is part of the Board’s mandate to encourage voter registration in the Jewish community, formally observe the elections, and promote political debate.

Are these municipal elections about service delivery or about elements of identity in the context of South Africa’s racialised inequality? According to Nompumelelo Runji, the founder and chief executive of Critical ThinkAR – a research and stakeholder management consultancy – it’s a little bit of both in this highly polarised society.

“Good governance isn’t just about clean audits, sewage infrastructure, and tarred roads,” she said. For many, the yardstick is whether their quality of life is improving or not. They are asking if the African National Congress (ANC) can really deliver for all rather than the elite few.

Political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga also senses popular anger, but no consolidation of support by any political party to capitalise on the ANC’s failures. “The ANC is held back by its own history,” he said, and hopes to get by on mea culpas [acknowledgement of wrongdoing] and faith. “It’s the devil people know,” Mathekga said. He judged that talk of renewal in the ANC was illusory, describing it as “a party in great difficulty”. “Corruption has been democratised in local government, with mammoth irregularities in public procurement,” Mathekga said, pointing out that criminal elements like protection rackets have filled the vacuum where the state has retreated.

Runji said local elections were “a vehicle for employment, a jobs pipeline for parties. Capacity and skills are trumped by factional allegiances. There is a failure to adhere to financial governance practices like the PFMA [Public Finance Management Act] and the MFMA [Municipal Finance Management Act].” She characterised the problem as a toxic mix of lack of responsibility, no accountability, deficient oversight, and a dearth of consequences for maladministration. “Party loyalty and dynamics become more important than delivering services,” she said.

Wayne Sussman, elections analyst for Daily Maverick, views it as a unique election in which the two major parties have little momentum 20 days before the vote.

“There are only 400 members of parliament, but there are far more council positions up for grabs,” said Sussman. In an environment of high unemployment, the prospect of a middle-class job for five years in a municipal council has proved enticing for many. Independent candidates have mushroomed, and he expects them to do marginally better because of their sheer volume. “They will find it hard to influence politics in the metros, but they will play a role in this election,” Sussman said.

Looking at opposition parties, will the Democratic Alliance (DA) be punished at the polls? A lot depends on differential turnout, according to Sussman. If the suburbs come out in numbers and disillusioned ANC voters stay at home, “the DA may not do that badly. It was the first out of the starting blocks with its posters. But to use a rugby analogy, with the try-line in front of them, they have had knock-on after knock-on in the past week.” He predicts that the party will retain Cape Town and be the biggest or second biggest party in all the country’s metropolitan councils.

“The DA seems to want to attract controversy and get into trouble, and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has no plans to co-operate with anyone,” Mathekga said. “It would be shocked if it actually won a council.” He agreed that the DA often failed to read the public mood, and didn’t appear to have a real strategy for the Gauteng metros. The EFF is growing in South Africa’s neglected small towns, and the party may emerge as kingmaker in several councils, like it did in 2016. But its refusal to commit to coalitions makes for unstable politics. There is the real chance that some councils will be deadlocked and unable to agree on the election of a speaker, a mayor, and to pass the council budget. If they fail to do the latter, they will come under national administration. The speakers predicted there may be chaos like this in Tshwane, the nation’s capital.

Sussman is also carefully watching the performance of former Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA, which has taken a gamble by contesting only in Gauteng’s three metros (Johannesburg, Tshwane, and Ekurhuleni) and in three municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal. It has run a slick social-media campaign. “He has to do well on election night,” Sussman said. “If he does badly, it’s probably the end.”

Finally, the panellists agreed there was merit in retaining separate municipal elections, as it promoted local-level democracy. This particular election will certainly make for interesting analysis in the weeks to come.

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Back to Africa: shlicha’s journey comes full circle in Cape Town

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Exactly 30 years ago, emissaries from the Jewish Agency came to Ethiopia to tell Batya Shmueli’s family that “the way to Jerusalem is open”. Soon after, at the age of 11, she made aliyah as part of Operation Solomon. Now, she has returned to the continent of her birth as a shaliach (emissary) of the Jewish Agency, closing the circle.

She and her husband, Hed Shmueli, and their three children arrived in Cape Town as shlichim the week before Pesach. She has taken on the role of aliyah and community shlicha while he is working as head of Israel education at United Herzlia Schools. With roots in Ethiopia, Romania, and Iraq, they bring the diversity of Israeli society to the southern tip of Africa.

“We always felt we would do shlichut in America or Canada,” says Shmueli. “But when we met Cape Town community leaders Esta Levitas and Julie Berman, we immediately connected and knew this was the community for us.”

It hasn’t been a simple journey. “When we were told we could come to Israel, my father was 81 years old. Every Jew in Ethiopia had waited for this moment. It was the first time I saw my father cry,” Shmueli recalls. The family had lived a difficult life, needing to hide their Jewish identity and battle for survival. While the flight was a moment of joy, adapting to life in Israel wasn’t easy.

“We lived in a caravan near a small town in the Galilee. After living there for three years, I attended boarding school. It was a tremendous culture shock,” she says. Wanting to blend in and be accepted, she threw off her family’s religious values and tried to become a secular teenager. “I even made my hair blonde!” she laughs. She learned Hebrew quickly, and tried to distance herself from her parents and her past.

But after school, she finally started to embrace her history and identity as an Ethiopian Jew. She found out that it was members of the Israeli Navy along with Mossad who had come to Sudan to help Ethiopian Jews come to Israel, and became inspired to join the navy during her army service to “close the circle”. Eventually, she served in the Israeli Navy with an elite naval commando unit.

“My father passed away before he could see me in uniform. So many people helped me in my journey in Israel. This was my opportunity to serve and give back,” she says.

It was in the navy that she met Hed whose family came to Israel from Iraq and Romania. He also had a connection to Africa. “After tragically losing his father, who was only 51 years old, he decided to take himself on a journey to discover the world. Being an artist and sculptor, he spent time as a volunteer arts project leader in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, and learning traditional East-African wood carving in Kenya,” says Shmueli.

“After returning to Israel, the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs sponsored an artists’ mission to Dakar, Senegal. Hed was involved in co-ordinating and leading a group of Israeli artists sent as cultural representatives to Senegal for Israel’s 60th birthday celebrations.”

She also travelled after the army, spending a year in Los Angeles. It was there than she began to regret turning away from her identity and vowed “to return to my roots and culture”.

“I cried a lot that year, thinking about the pain and loss that my parents’ generation felt,” Shmueli says. “I wanted to go back to Israel and explain who we are as Ethiopian Jews. I wanted to be the voice of my parents.”

Returning to Israel, she realised she couldn’t “wait to be invited” to share her story, she had to just start doing it. She began to address audiences, sharing Ethiopian Jewish customs, culture, and cooking. She also got her Bachelor of Arts from Haifa University, where she studied teaching and the history of the Jewish people. She later received her Master’s degree in the history of Israel and Jewish law.

She then developed a programme that taught students about leadership and responsibility. In 2009, she returned to Ethiopia with the Israeli foreign ministry to teach village women about entrepreneurship. For the past 11 years, she has been fundraising for new immigrant populations.

When deciding where to raise their family, the Shmuelis chose to settle in the beautiful artists’ village of Ein Hod. It was a very secular community, however, so they decided to bring their passion for Judaism into the fold by commissioning a Sefer Torah for the village. It was made in the name of their late fathers, who had taught them to hold onto their Jewish heritage no matter what. “One thousand people came to the hachnasat [welcoming] Torah event,” recalls Shmueli. “There were Israelis from every sector of society.”

Eighteen years ago, they also opened their home to travellers hiking the Israel National Trail from the south to the north of Israel. Calling it “Avraham’s Tent”, they hosted more than 20 000 travellers.

The Shmuelis bring all of this passion and purpose with them to their shlichut in Cape Town. Their determination has seen them through delay in arrival as a result of the pandemic. In addition, their three children battled with being uprooted and being under lockdown.

“Israel is a country of children, and there is so much freedom for kids. So they have struggled, but we feel this is the best gift we can give them,” says Shmueli. “We are showing them that they belong to the Jewish people, and to bring that opportunity for connection to others.”

They believe they are in the right place at the right time. “After 20 minutes of talking to Esta and Julie, we looked at each other and said, ‘This is the correct place for us’. It’s a unique community with a unique history. This isn’t just about a new job, it’s something much deeper. We feel it’s the time to support the Jewish community.”

They have spent the past few months immersing themselves in the community and its organisations. “It’s so unique. It’s not every day that you see a community where all the Jewish children go to the same school and where there is so much support for everyone who needs it,” she says.

Just like she was given so many opportunities when she started her new life in Israel, she wants to create awareness about the possibilities that Israel provides, especially for the younger generation. She wants to help the youth feel proud of their heritage and connection with Israel.

“I want to be a bridge between Israel and South Africa,” she says. “We live our shlichut day and night, and are here for the community at any time. And we are here to learn from you too.”

They plan to meet people from all walks of life, sharing the diversity of their family and Israeli society. “We won’t apologise for who we are … we stand strong,” says Shmueli. At the same time, she encourages questions, discussion, and debate.

“The Ethiopian Jewish community never gave up on their dream of going to Jerusalem,” she says. Being part of the generation that got to go back to Israel means that she sees her shlichut as a continuation of that journey. “To be back in Africa as Israelis for the Jewish community – I thank G-d for showing us the way.”

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Israeli company brings SA dam back to life

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Just before Pesach this year, the SA Jewish Report detailed how leading global “watertech” company, BlueGreen Water Technologies, was assisting local government authorities to transform toxic water into healthy drinking water at Setumo Dam on the Molopo River in North West province.

Six months later, the company has announced that its water clean-up intervention has been successfully completed. For the first time in decades, the people of Mahikeng are receiving safe drinking water from their main water supply source, which was severely contaminated by toxic algae blooms. The project was in collaboration with Sedibeng Water, the company overseen by the Department of Water and Sanitation.

“BlueGreen is committed to making water safe,” says Eyal Harel, the chief executive and co-founder of the company. “We undertook this project pro-bono, knowing it was the only chance for this community to access clean drinking water, enjoy Setumo Dam as a safe water source, and unleash its potential for recreational purposes. We wish to empower local authorities to reclaim their water sources and advance the health and livelihood of their communities.

“To clear Setumo Dam was an unprecedented technical and operational challenge, with far-reaching consequences for the rural community that relies on it,” he told the SA Jewish Report. “The project has not only confirmed BlueGreen’s ability to remediate lakes under the toughest conditions, but also improved water quality and water availability. Setumo Dam can now be used not only as a source of drinking water but also as a local attraction for recreation. The economic development possibilities in and around the lake are far-reaching.”

The outbreak at Setumo Dam was considered one of the worst cases in South Africa. The heavy load of blue-green algae was the result of decades of insufficiently treated sewage being released directly into the dam. The dam’s size and level of contamination had deemed it “untreatable”.

BlueGreen’s treatment protocol was tailored to the unique conditions in Setumo Dam by BlueGreen’s field specialists. It also eliminated unpleasant taste and odour compounds from the drinking water.

“The unique situation we found in the field brought about two previously unaddressed challenges,” says Harel. “The first was the rural location and lack of basic infrastructure. This mandated an out-of-the-box logistical adaptation so that our treatment could be delivered timely and accurately.

“In addition, we encountered extreme biological conditions that rendered the entire dam a dead aquatic zone. Reviving the lake meant tailoring a specific treatment protocol that would reverse infectious processes that have been dominating the dam for decades, and give a fighting chance to non-toxic species that would enhance the lake’s biodiversity. As time went by, changes became evident from treatment, not only in the colour of the water, but a clear change in the number of animals, primarily birds, approaching the water, as well as an increase in their diversity.

“Shortly before starting treatment, we witnessed the local community performing rituals that involved entering Setumo Dam’s toxic water. We saw some fishermen trying to catch the few small fish that survived the harsh conditions. We grasped how under-developed the area was, in spite of its amazing potential. And we realised that once cleaned, we wouldn’t just improve the health and livelihood of the people around Setumo Dam, we would create a historical opportunity for local authorities to turn the lake into a place that could bring about much-needed development and prosperity.”

Asked if the company will work in South Africa again, Harel says, “As part of our work at Setumo Dam, we tried to establish an economic model that will allow us to repeat this in other under-developed areas in South Africa and around the world. We have established that a clean Setumo Dam saves the local community as much as 90% of their ongoing drinking water production cost! We hope that these findings will push other communities into action to reclaim and revive their water sources.

“Years of drought, pollution, growing population, and global warming have all contributed to South Africa’s deteriorating water availability and water quality,” he says. “Water has turned into a matter of national security. BlueGreen has made it part of its business to support local, rural communities, and establish their basic human right to clean water. Our means to remediate Setumo Dam’s water couldn’t have been put into play if not for the tremendous help of local government, including South Africa’s Department of Water and Sanitation and Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, local water boards (Sedibeng Water and Rand Water), as well as the active support of our local partners, AECI group and Capitol Air. This united effort and commitment by so many is heartwarming, and an encouraging indication of South Africa’s innate ability to overcome great challenges.”

Jurgens van Loggerenberg, the director of Africa for BlueGreen Water Technologies says, “The project has had a positive impacted on more than half a million lives as a direct result of improved water quality. Setumo Dam’s high cyanobacterial cell content [billions of cells per millilitre] far surpassed the levels deemed safe and approved by the World Health Organization and the South African Bureau of Standards.

“The heavy organic load was also disrupting the ability of the local water treatment plant to operate, increasing the overall costs substantially and keeping the final water quality well below national and international standards. This historical achievement is the result of a joint effort that included the Department of Water and Sanitation, Sedibeng Water, and Rand Water Analytical Services working together.”

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