Did ANC, EFF pressure force Mashaba’s hand?
Christian and Jewish voices in South Africa have spoken out strongly against the suspension of prominent Johannesburg councillor Dr Mpho Phalatse for declaring at a SA Friends of Israel Conference last Sunday that both she and the city were friends of Israel.
Johannesburg’s DA Mayor Herman Mashaba announced her suspension in council on Tuesday pending an investigation into the context of her words at the weekend, saying “her remarks have created confusion on this complex matter, and created a divisive debate which is counter to the kind of social cohesion that is needed in our city”.
But according to some media reports Mashaba’s actions were probably a result of ANC and EFF threats to derail the critical budget vote which had been repeatedly held up by the EFF. The budget was passed this week. Politics Web suggests Mashaba may have resisted pressure to fire Phalatse but agreed to suspend her — and left the DA grappling with how to deal with social media. It was tweeting by DA MP and youth leader Yusuf Cassim who was enraged by Phalatse’s pro-Israel tweets from the Saci conference, which brought the issue under the political spotlight.
Expressing “regret” about Phalatse’s suspension, ACDP national chairperson Joanne Downs said Johannesburg City policy is not DA policy and that the coalition partners have never agreed on a position on Israel. She said Mashaba does not have the authority to suspend an MMC without the support of council.
SA Friends of Israel co-chairm Ben Swartz called for Phalatse’s immediate reinstatement, saying: “It is a sad day when elected officials are not free to attend events of their choosing, and express their personal religious or political views. This is indicative of the environment in which Israel is being demonised to a degree that bears no relationship to reality.“
SA Jewish Board of Deputies Gauteng chairman Mark Pozniak said Phalatse had become “become the target of hysterical condemnation for having expressed support for Israel”, despite her subsequent clarification that she did so in her personal capacity.
He said her suspension was yet another instance of anti-Israel bigotry which posed a serious threat to democracy in South Africa.
“This is an unacceptable situation. Ours is a democracy that entitles every one of us to hold and express differing opinions. We call on all South Africans to stand up against those who resort to bullying and intimidation to prevent others from exercising that inalienable right,” he said.
The SA Jewish Report writes: “Meanwhile Phalatse, a medical doctor with vast experience in the health sector and a devout Christian, has been in touch with numerous members of the Jewish community this week following her suspension.
“She has steadfastly stood by her attitude towards Israel, but clarified her remarks this week, saying, “I wish to stress that the remarks were an expression of my personal views, and I recognise that they do not represent the views of the City of Johannesburg or the DA, which I serve.” She apologised for the ‘confusion’. ”