Johannesburg health and social development MMC Dr Mpho Phalatse has released a statement in which she apologises for “hurt and confusion” caused by her pro-Israel comments at a SA Friends of Israel conference on June 10.
Phalatse’s closing comment at the conference — that she and the City of Johannesburg were friends of Israel –sparked an angry response from political groups including the EFF, ANC and some of her DA colleagues, and DA Mayor Herman Mashaba suspended her pending an investigation into the context of her words. The ACDP and Jewish groups objected strongly to her suspension.
In her public apology statement, which she has published on her Twitter page, Phalatse acknowledges that “the Middle East conflict is a challenging and sensitive subject which, if not approached with the required consideration, causes acrimony in our diverse society”.
She says she recognises that, in isolation, her highly-publicised statement creates the wrong impression that she was positioning the City of Johannesburg on international relations matters without a mandate. However she says “a lot of confusion” was caused by publicising her closing remarks out of the context of her whole speech.
Phalatse’s full apology reads: “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 rnade on Sunday 10 June 2018.
“I realise 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 unpublicised component of my speech, I specifically spoke to the commitment of the DA and our government to achieving Freedom, Fairness, Opportunity and Diversity in Johannesburg.
“The publicised 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.
“I also recognize that the highly publicised 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.
“I would therefore like to clarify that I was not suggesting that the city has assurned a particular position in the Israel Palestine rnatter, as this would fall outside of the city’s direct mandate.
“The work of my Departments is aided significantly through our relationships with organisations from around the world, including both Jewish and Muslim aligned organisations. These relationships are underpinned by links with various embassies through the diplomatic corps. It is thus within the limited context of migration for development in the City of Johannesburg that these relationships are established and nurtured.
“I fully appreciate the leadership of Mayor Mashaba and his directive to focus on the needs of our residents rather than the historical focus on International Relations.
“Labelling, 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. 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.
“In my work have also come to appreciate how rnany residents of this City live without the required access to basic healthcare. As a Professional Doctor, I have found that there is so much potential for our government to improve the lives of our people.
“I regret the extent to which my remarks have distracted from this.”