South African lawmaker shaking nation for Israel

Christian MP Kenneth Meshoe of South Africa preaches for Israel.

Tabernacles Jerusalem 521 (photo credit: ICEJ)
Tabernacles Jerusalem 521
(photo credit: ICEJ)
Last month, a group of 25 parliamentarians from 17 different countries came to Jerusalem for the annual “chairmen’s conference” of the International Israel Allies Foundation, which has established pro-Israel caucuses in some two dozen national legislatures worldwide. Their visit was co-sponsored by the World Jewish Congress and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, which also was hosting its yearly celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem at the same time.
Among the visiting parliamentarians were US Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican from Arizona who has been key in helping Israel develop its anti-missile defense systems like the Arrow III and Iron Dome, as well as Member of the European Parliament Hannu Takkula of Finland, who has distinguished himself as one of Israel’s best friends within European political circles over recent years. James Lunney, a member of the parliament of Canada, also came to represent the party of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has stood out in recent years as Israel’s best friend among world leaders, even cutting off Canada’s diplomatic relations with Iran in September.
Yet the lawmaker who received the most attention from the Israeli press was MP Kenneth Meshoe from South Africa, who is very effective in debunking the charge that Israel is an apartheid state and has been battling recent government attempts to “label” products made in West Bank settlements.
A remarkably busy and accomplished figure, Meshoe not only pastors a thriving church, writes books and oversees a growing political party which he founded, but also is pursuing a master’s degree in economics. One of his greatest aims in entering public service was to improve South Africa’s ties with Israel and bring balance to his government’s approach to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. This has meant having to correct decades of misperceptions about Israel’s relations with Pretoria during the apartheid era and to change the pro-Palestinian attitude of the ruling African National Congress, or change the government itself in the process.
A new drumbeat In response to the ANC’s notoriously anti-Israel policies, a coalition calling itself “Africans for Israel” and consisting of such groups as Meshoe’s ACDP, the Inkatha Freedom Party, the South African Zionist Federation and the Nazareth Baptist Church (also known as the Shembe Church), organized a march to the trade ministry’s offices in Pretoria to protest against the labeling requirement and demand that trade minister Rob Davis withdraw it.
During last month’s appearance at the Feast of Tabernacles, Meshoe explained how the ranks of pro-Israel Christians in South Africa are growing and walking to a different drumbeat. He said the protesters took to the streets to stand up against the labeling notice because it was both discriminatory and indefensible.
“In relation to this notice, we organized Christians and went to our Jewish friends who were worried about this,” recounted Meshoe. “We said that we are going to march and demand that this notice be withdrawn because it is flawed. We made T-shirts with the slogan, ‘Stop attempts to crush Israel.’ And we were chanting this as we were marching, both Christians and Jews.”
Meshoe explained that the label requirement eventually was abandoned when a parliament committee concluded it was discriminatory, and he insisted this all happened because Christians and Jews came together and took a stand.
Meshoe was not the only South African political leader marching against the anti-Israel initiative. Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of the Zulu-based Inkhata Freedom party, also claimed that the notice was biased and had no basis in law.
“Our government… has made no effort to conceal the fact that it supports the Palestinian cause. One seldom hears an unbiased statement in parliament. Our government has taken sides,” lamented Buthelezi.
Despite the recent victory, the battle is just beginning for Meshoe’s pro-Israel coalition, as recent reports indicate the trade minister has published a second notice concerning the labeling of Israeli products. The new notice would dictate that “the label ‘Made in Israel’ may only be applied to goods that originate from within Israel’s borders of 1948-1967 before they were unilaterally changed by Israel in 1967 Six Day War.”
Israeli Arabs have ‘liberty’ During his stay in Israel, Meshoe also conducted numerous press interviews in which he roundly dismissed the charge that Israel is an apartheid state. He responded that people making this claim are exposing their ignorance as to what apartheid really was and minimizing the pain it inflicted.
“On the issue of transportation, whites had their buses and the black people their own buses, which is something that I have not seen in Jerusalem or in Israel,” Meshoe told the Feast audience.
“There used to be special clinics for white people, and if one needed help and had to see a white doctor it would have to be done in a side room or a store room. The Arabs do not have this experience because they have the liberty to go to any medical institution they want in the country.”
He also noted that black South Africans were not able to vote until 1994 and hence lacked any representation in parliament, while a white person charged with a crime could not appear in front of a black judge because there were none.
“Now, what was surprising for me to hear was that the former president of Israel [Moshe Katsav] appeared before an Arab judge,” said Meshoe. “This would be unheard of in the South African context when you talk about apartheid. A white person would never have a black person as a teacher, a lawyer or as a judge, but this you can see here in Israel. So those who say that Israel is an apartheid state don’t know what apartheid really was. If black South Africans had the rights that Palestinians are having today, there would not have been an armed struggle in South Africa.”
A dreamer and torch-bearer Besides being a member of parliament and party head, Meshoe is also a successful pastor who worked for several years with evangelist Reinhard Bonnke and his Christ For All Nations ministry.
Meshoe’s own church in the province of Gauteng is called the Hope of Glory Tabernacle, and his fluid and inspiring preaching style were on display in his Feast seminar.
Meshoe used the occasion to urge Christians gathered from dozens of countries to mobilize in order to change their own societies, adding that one thing Christians are famous for is to complain when things go wrong but to do very little to fix them.
“It’s not going to help Israel by complaining about our government when nothing practically is done. We can begin with prayers, but after hearing from God we need to act. Many times God waits for us to do something before He does what needs to be done,” he said.
Meshoe also claimed that there are many fellow Christians on the African continent, including leaders of nations, who believe in the Genesis 12 “blessing” on those countries and peoples who stand with Israel.
“They know this truth of Genesis 12:3, but instead they chose to be politically correct rather than stand for the truth,” Meshoe said. “But give me a few years and South Africa will be standing with Israel. Give us five years and many African nations will be joining us.”
“The prayer of my heart is that in the next few years we will see African countries, led by South Africa, that are willing to stand with Israel in the UN Security Council. There are some people that say that I am a dreamer. But my dream, which I hope will come true, is to see African leaders standing with Israel and defending her.”
“That will happen when we have a Christian government in my country, and we will have it,” Meshoe assured his audience. “It is part of the plan! It’s part of God’s purpose for South Africa... The nation of South Africa is meant to be a torchbearer and a hope-bringer, not only on the African continent but in the rest of the world.”