JOHANNESBURG – As South Africans celebrated former president Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday on July 18, paying tribute to a man renowned as an icon of reconciliation, it would be misleading to allow sentiment to overlook the facts about the man as politician and his errors in judgment.

This is a particularly useful example for Israelis and Arabs contemplating at any point their own chances of reconciliation and how best to govern.

The first of these is that it was former South African Communist Party leader Joe Slovo who advised Mandela to renounce violence to achieve reconciliation. So too was it Slovo who was responsible for incorporating a sunset clause to save the Convention for a Democratic South Africa talks.

That was for the African National Congress to govern in coalition with the Nationalist Party – one which fell short of the five-year period envisaged.

Accompanying this was a loss of administrative capacity based on a preferential race policy increasingly and exclusively in favor of nonwhites that had “worked to the detriment of the country.” These were the words of the black opposition African Christian Democratic Party.

Another bone of contention was Black Economic Empowerment deals, “reserved for ANC card-carrying members”.

Former ANC parliamentarian Andrew Feinstein in his work, The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade, felt compelled to trace South Africa’s unnecessary arms purchases of 70 billion rand to a conversation between then-president Mandela and the-British prime minister John Major, who was visiting. The latter advised Mandela that the purchases would help raise money for the ANC.

This they did to the tune of some 3 billion rand in bribes to the ANC itself, government officials and agents.

Mandela’s concurrence set the stage for a saga of corruption, fraud and racketeering that would see all three of South Africa’s presidents since 1994 – Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and current President Jacob Zuma – answering before the current Commission of Inquiry into the Arms Deal.

It set an example for the ANC’s investment arm to participate in business ventures with the state. So too did ANC government officials, in an individual capacity, flagrantly partake in government tenders with the public blessing of Zuma.

The degrees of culpability are still to be determined for the deaths of some 365,000 AIDS patients for whom the government “had no money” – as Mbeki protested during his tenure – to provide antiretroviral therapy. Yet the ANC had taxpayers’ money to pay for arms, with cost taken out as a procurement factor.

While lauded for his capacity to forgive, Mandela’s lack of discrimination and capacity to confront spiraling violent crime at home was evidenced in his four-year term of office.

His invitation to PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi and Cuban leader Fidel Castro to attend his inauguration in 1994 prompted a remonstration from one of his leading defense advocates during his treason trial, Isie Maisels. He further astounded observers by visiting the imprisoned terrorist responsible for the Lockerbie bombing.

A breath of fresh air was welcome on June 28 in the form of a peaceful and dignified protest, Africans for Israel, organized by the African Christian Democratic Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party. They were joined by the Shembe Church, estimated to have one million followers, many of them ANC members. The ACDP in turn invited the South African Zionist Federation to join among others.

Memoranda were handed over to Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies in Pretoria and Cape Town, to cancel his initiative to label products made in the West Bank and Gaza as products of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and not of Israel.

Signed by ACDP president Reverend Kenneth Meshoe and IFP president Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the memoranda point out that the ANC’s General Notice 379 of 2012 “has no legal basis in our law or in international law to support this requirement.”

Buthelezi wrote in his party’s statement: “The IFP believes the labeling is a provocation aimed at promoting a consumer boycott. The action on the part of the Department of Trade and Industry is not in the interests of South Africans. It reflects the political interest of the ANC, which continues to utilize the state to pay off its political debts, confusing the national interests of South Africa with the private interests of the ANC.”

More condemnation by the ACDP of the ANC followed on August 15 after Deputy Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Ebrahim Ebrahim, known for blocking high-level government contact between Israel and South Africa, was quoted in the Mail & Guardian on August 10, dissuading South Africans from visiting Israel except if involved in the peace process.

Ebrahim, laughably, was taking cues known “two-bit” Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS0 activists Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and Muhammad Desai, who thought they had achieved victory after KwaZulu-Natal mayors and municipal officials cancelled a trip to Israel.

This was trumped by the announcement on August 15 of Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s visit to Israel early next year at the invitation of the Israeli Embassy to promote cooperation in rural development, agriculture and other fields.

It appears unknown to Ebrahim that Ndlozi was suspended for misconduct by Wits University last year for getting cleaners to upturn garbage cans on campus. Desai lied to the South African Jewish Report during his disruption of a delegation of Israeli students to Wits in 2011, saying he was doing two masters degrees at Wits and the University of Johannesburg.

He in fact was only registered for a history course at Wits.

On South African-Israeli relations, Reverend Meshoe said: “I believe by the grace and help of God, the ACDP is going to change the wrong direction this country has taken, make it one of the most prosperous and safe countries in the world, and ensure that one day, Israel becomes one of the closest allies of South Africa. I am looking forward to the day when most of Africa will stand with Israel before I die.”

With the two-state solution for Israel looking moribund and a single unitary state being ruled out, consideration is being given in some quarters in Israel to the idea of a confederation or commonwealth, comprised of Israel, Gaza, Judea and Samaria and the West Bank, and possibly Jordan.

BUTHELEZI SAYS the IFP “can only adopt a possible new stance/policy direction on the matter once we take it to our national council, scheduled to meet on August 25-26.”

Meshoe opined that “a confederation [or commonwealth] should only be considered if all parties involved affirm the right of Jewish people to live in a safe and secure environment.”

The IFP currently has 18 MPs in National Parliament, 18 Members of Provincial Legislature in KwaZulu- Natal – Zuma’s stronghold – where it is the official opposition, and one MPL in Gauteng. More than 1.2 million people voted for the party in the 2011 local government elections.

The ACDP has three MPs in National Parliament, 3 MPLs in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, and approximately 42 local government councillors throughout the country.

Small parties – who along with the ANC lost votes in the 2009 election against the growing leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance – are increasingly more vocal against the ANC’s anti-Israel pronouncements, making them attractive to disillusioned ANC members and South African Jewry.

Meshoe relates that “there have been talks between opposition parties about defending the Constitution from the ANC’s attempts to change it. There are talks in the pipeline about cooperating during the next elections in 2014.”

Alison Goldberg is a freelance journalist for the South African Jewish Report based in Johannesburg. She was Sanlam Financial Journalist of the Year in 1995.

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