A protester and member of South Africa's ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF), holds a flag outside the Israeli embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, November 2, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO)
A leader from the Johannesburg Municipality in South Africa who was suspended by the city’s mayor after saying both she and “the City of Joburg stand with Israel” has apologized for the hurt her remarks caused.
Mpho Phalatse, who is in charge of the city’s health and social development portfolio, made the comment at a South African Friends of Israel conference earlier this month.
“I would like to issue my most sincere apology to the residents of the City of Johannesburg for the confusion and hurt caused by my remarks.”
She said that she realized that “the nature of the Middle East conflict is a very challenging and sensitive subject which, if not approached with the required consideration, causes acrimony in our diverse society.”
“In the unpublicized component of my speech, I specifically spoke to the commitment of the DA [Democratic Alliance] and our government to achieving ‘freedom, fairness, opportunity and diversity’ in Johannesburg,” she said, adding that the publicized component of the speech denied the listener the relevant context which was captured in the content preceding those parting remarks. “This led to a lot of confusion, and I realize that many were offended as a result,” she added.
Phalatse explained that the “highly publicized statement, in isolation, does create the impression that I was positioning the City of Johannesburg on international relations matters without the requisite mandate, and for that I sincerely apologize.”
She emphasized that she was not suggesting that the city had assumed a particular position on the Israel-Palestine matter, as this would fall outside of the city’s direct mandate.
She also made it clear that the work of her departments is aided significantly “through our relationships with organizations from around the world, including both Jewish- and Muslim-aligned organizations.”
Phalatse’s comments earlier this month caused a storm of hate speech and antisemitic remarks to be made on social media
In her apology, Phalatse made reference to such incidences and made it clear that the city would not stand for such behavior. “Labeling, hate speech or any type of discrimination or intimidation on the basis of race or religion are practices that have no place in the City of Johannesburg,” she said. “It is the role of the Department of Social Development to foster peaceful relations and social cohesion between all residents in the city, and this is a cause I remain committed to.”
Phalatse is expected to resume her leadership position soon.