EXPLORING THE CONCERNS OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN JEWISH COMMUNITY
In this article Dr Ruth Rabinowitz, former Member of Parliament for the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), responds to a recent DafkaDotCom article by Laura Phillips. She argues that Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi has been unjustly characterised, and urges the Jewish community to examine critically the prevailing narratives about the IFP. She further argues that it is in the community’s best interest to foster a deeper relationship with Buthelezi.
IN a recent DafkaDotCom article by Laura Phillips (13/02/2019), Phillips questions the Jewish community’s association with Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Before any debate about whether the Jewish community should identify with, let alone honour such an individual as Buthelezi, it is crucial to have an honest perspective on the facts around which Phillips builds her argument. As a Jewish representative of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), first in the Senate and then the House of Assembly, I spent years challenging the types of allegations Phillips levels against Buthelezi – what I came to term “the matter with the myths”. I tried then, as I do now, to show the chasm between true facts and the falsehoods that have been propagated about Buthelezi.
"Discovering how easily fake news can be embedded in a populace smitten with an ideology that is served by it, one of my goals here is to present the “Matter with the Myths” about Buthelezi and the IFP."
In his recent address to the South African Jewish community when the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) paid tribute to him (which Phillips cites in her article), Buthelezi was gracious and factual, reflecting a long history of his association with leaders and individuals in the South African Jewish community. By contrast Phillips employs discredited disinformation, and references a questionable original source. Her argument suggests a political agenda rather than a desire to present true facts.
Phillips references a book by Mzala as a source of her information. This name is a pseudonym for Nobleman Nxumalo, a propagandist who was commissioned by the South African Communist Party (SACP) to write the book. Mzala’s claims have been refuted in writings and research from sources such as Dr Anthea Jeffery, one of South Africa’s most rigorous and courageous legal historians; Riaan Malan,[i] Court records, the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC)[ii] and parliamentary Hansards. I have an eight-page referenced report, addressing the allegations in Phillips’ article. It would require an article beyond the number of words allowed by this forum to detail the contrary evidence, or to tell a story which I spent 15 years carrying like an albatross, ready to relate to anyone who had the will to listen or the integrity to hear it. Discovering how easily fake news can be embedded in a populace smitten with an ideology that is served by it, one of my goals here is to present the “Matter with the Myths” about Buthelezi and the IFP.
"As head of the Zulu Territorial Authority comprising approximately 5 million Zulus, who Buthelezi was not prepared to commit to a Communist agenda, Buthelezi became as great a threat to the ANC and SACP as the Apartheid government."
Phillips’ article resurrects the African National Congress (ANC) and SACP’s deliberate agenda to discredit Buthelezi by means of an orchestrated spread of propaganda and vilification. It began after Buthelezi rejected the ANC’s invitation to join the armed struggle in 1979. Rather, Buthelezi opted to refuse independent status, instead deciding to remain part of South Africa. Further, he elected to set-up a non-racial structure to govern KwaZulu (the Kwa Zulu Ndaba) and to render the grand scheme of separate development a failure by refusing to negotiate with the government unless Nelson Mandela were released. As head of the Zulu Territorial Authority comprising approximately 5 million Zulus, who Buthelezi was not prepared to commit to a Communist agenda, he became as great a threat to the ANC and SACP as the Apartheid government. The campaign against him was not only waged with propaganda but there were numerous foiled plots against his life. Remarkably instead of being disheartened over the years, Buthelezi has been strengthened.
Phillips’ assertion that Buthelezi was responsible for the murder of 20,000 people in KZN has no root in fact. The TRC, which was crafted with a strong bias towards the ANC, was unable to provide evidence to support this claim. On the other hand, Thabo Mbeki and several colleagues from the ANC applied for, and were granted, blanket amnesty by the TRC for “grave violations of human rights which they had perpetrated”. The 20,000 murders committed during the 1980s and early 1990s were a product of a ‘People’s war’, funded by the anti-apartheid movement and a strong international Communist network. Phillips claims collusion between the apartheid government and the IFP to train IFP hit squads. That assertion was tested in a court of law in 1996 and found to be without evidence.[iii] Unlike the ANC, the IFP has never had a formal military wing. It had a Self-Protection Unit trained to assist in protecting Buthelezi -- whose life was under constant threat -- and other political leaders, of whom 400 were murdered pre 1994. In contrast, The ANC had a dedicated armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, whose deliberate goal was to commit acts of violence not only against the apartheid regime, but against other Black groups who did not support the ANC. In her exhaustively researched book, The Natal Story: 16 years of conflict, Jeffery exposes the people’s war conducted by the ANC. Jeffery writes:
when the People’s War began in the early 1990s the IFP already had over 1 million members and was the greatest obstacle to the ANC’s determination to dominate a post- apartheid South Africa. The IFP bore the brunt of the 15000 casualties (in the war), for the police were correct in their analysis that the ANC was waging an aggressive war against the IFP by military means and that the IFP was disadvantaged because it lacked the quantity and sophistication of weaponry available to the ANC.[iv]
Fighting raged on many fronts. The IFP was not only involved in a campaign to end apartheid, which it tried to influence using leverage and negotiation, but also in a violent battle against the ANC, modern Zulus in the Midlands, and Xhosas on the East Rand and elsewhere, who campaigned to “Kill the Zulus”. Killings were perpetrated across the spectrum and on all sides.
"Jewish leaders were in a precarious position after 1994 and they were careful not to pit themselves against the ruling party."
Buthelezi was punished by the apartheid government for not taking independent homeland status, consequently receiving the smallest grant of all the black territories. He ran KwaZulu on a shoe-string budget and sponsored development programmes for land development, health and education. These programmes were of real benefit to people he could reach, with no element of self-promotion by Buthelezi. Jewish leaders were in a precarious position after 1994 and they were careful not to pit themselves against the ruling party. They dared not offer fuel for antisemitic sentiment by associating with what could be perceived as ‘the enemy’. Thus, as much as I would have liked to, I did not serve as a bridge between the Jewish community and the IFP during my 15 years in parliament. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) were in a difficult position, and I respected their need to prioritize the protection of the Jewish community. This implied no overt connection with the IFP under the scrutiny of either the media or the House of Parliament. Even inside parliament Buthelezi was more of a threat to the ANC than the collapsed Nationalist Party and the still lily-white DP/DA. This also impacted the Jewish community at an individual level: What businessperson seeking a future in the system of patronage created by the ANC, could overtly identify with the IFP? High profile businessmen and international leaders always had an easy audience with Buthelezi and privately he received respectful treatment from most Jewish organizations and prominent businessmen. The Jewish community’s Tikkun Olam initiatives and the development arm of the Israeli Embassy worked primarily with the ANC or with King Goodwill Zwelithini, who was more often aligned with Mandela and Jacob Zuma than with Buthelezi. My association with the IFP and Buthelezi was an anathema to many in the Jewish community who saw it as a betrayal of Jewish values. The more politically correct communal position was to support the underdog from the left (for them that meant the ANC). My support was for the very opposite. Something in my Jewish soul obliged me to stand up for the truth and associate with the person who had been unjustly vilified, who espoused non-violence, a negotiated settlement, a federal South Africa and a truly democratic constitution. That man was Buthelezi. For me, this support embodied the covenantal principles that aligned with the ethos of the Torah, yet they were unpopular to defend in the ‘new South Africa’.
"The IFP fought for a model which would have saved the country from its current pandemic of untrammeled corruption."
I can personally attest that Phillips’ claim of Buthelezi’s unconstitutional behavior has no basis in fact. I served on the Constitutional Committee and helped to put forward alternative solutions to the proposed constitution that would have provided South Africa with a US-style federal constitution and checks on Presidential and Executive powers. The IFP fought for a model which would have saved the country from its current pandemic of untrammeled corruption. Buthelezi’s wise insistence early in the negotiation process that the Zulu monarch be allowed to attend as a significant stakeholder, would have prevented manipulation of the monarch between the ANC and IFP, which has indeed been a major source of conflict over the years.
In the eight years since I left parliament in 2009, and the five that I have been out of South Africa there has been no major change in the agenda of Jewish support for development in KwaZulu-Natal. In her article Phillips’ argues that the joint collaboration between the South African Jewish community and Buthelezi in the field of HIV prevention, is closely tied to Buthelezi’s political support for Israel. The long-standing collaboration between the Moshal family and Buthelezi to fund centres of support for children with HIV is based entirely on their joint commitment to uplift and save lives in some of South Africa’s poorest rural communities. Dr Karyn Moshal founded CHIVA Africa (the Children’s HIV Association) through the benevolence of her parents John and Anna Moshal, long-time friends of the Prince. CHIVA Africa honours Buthelezi for his dedicated work in the fight against HIV and in no way directs funds to him or through him. I am not aware of any Jewish organization that went out of its way to support Buthelezi’s efforts in the days when ANC leaders refused to allow antiretrovirals to be administered in KZN hospitals. Nor did any of these organizations come out in open support of Buthelezi in his struggle against the ANC leadership’s denial that HIV caused Aids and their deliberate prevention of the Global Fund from delivering much needed aid to KZN’s victims of HIV. The Moshals deserve only gratitude for their loyalty and generosity in helping to fight this pandemic.
"The Jewish community should never enclose itself in a self-styled ghetto ... South Africa's Jewish leaders should encourage outreach and interaction with all leaders, races, religions and social strata."
Phillips’ question about the motives for the Jewish community’s philanthropy and its role in social upliftment in South Africa is relevant. But rather it should be addressed to the many Jewish organizations that have close ties with the ANC. Certainly with political affiliation one must constantly weigh morality against utilitarian goals so that the time for drawing a line in the sand is recognized. Tikkun Olam can hardly qualify as outreach that has a merely utilitarian goal. The Jewish community should never enclose itself in a self-styled ghetto. The beauty of a country that allows cultural diversity is that it also encourages unity of diversity, which should be fostered. South Africa’s Jewish leaders should encourage outreach and interaction with all leaders, races, religions and social strata.
I spent 15 years – and Buthelezi many more – dispelling the assertions underpinning Phillips’ arguments. In contrast to the propagandist sentiments I have fought to dispel, hundreds of world leaders, respected academics and prominent businessmen have travelled to consult with Buthelezi and pay their respects; thousands have recognized him as one of South Africa’s most respected politicians; one of the few who says and means the same thing, as opposed to those who, chameleon-like, switch affiliation according to their audience. More than any other group, the Jewish community in South Africa has a moral obligation to recognize Buthelezi’s contribution to South African history and to help uproot fossilized myths long discredited. Many enlightened South Africans have already travelled this road. When prevailing wisdom casts heroes of the struggle as the ANC, SACP and Mandela, and the villain as the centrist-traditionalist Buthelezi, it takes courage to stand against entrenched propaganda and a victor’s rendition of history. Shimon Peres told Buthelezi that he understood his battle when he stated: “It is the same as that of the Jewish people and the state of Israel”. When Buthelezi called me a Julu (a Jewish Zulu) we both knew that I wore the same shoes for both roles.
"More than any other group, the Jewish community in South Africa has a moral obligation to recognize Buthelezi’s contribution to South African history and to help uproot fossilized myths long discredited."
Buthelezi’s unswerving and overt support for Israel has been based on his own sincere religious convictions, a love of Judeo-Christian teachings, a respect for Jews and his gratitude towards his Jewish friends. It is Buthelezi’s political savvy that has enabled him to recognise the same tactics that were used by the ANC in the Palestinian’s anti-Israel uprisings. Acknowledging the increased hostility directed towards the South African Jewish community by the ruling party, the Jewish community would do well to rethink its alliances and seek a greater partnership with those who share its values.
[i] Frontiers of Freedom, 2nd Quarter 1999, SA Institute of Race Relations, 26-36 [ii] The Truth Commissions Report Oct. 29, 1998 and March 21, 2003 [iii] KwaZulu Natal Court records 1996 trial versus Magnus Malan [iv] The Natal Story 16 Years of Conflict by Anthea Jeffery, SAIRR, 1997
Ruth Rabinowitz is a medical doctor and a former Member of the South African Parliament for the Inkatha Freedom Party (1994-2009). She served three terms as Health Spokesperson, worked on the Constitutional Committee, and on the committees for Education, Arts and Culture, Science and Technology, Energy, and the Environment. Her book Working with Wonder, is a teacher's handbook on experiential education in the natural sciences. After leaving parliament Dr Rabinowitz established the MamaEarth Foundation (http://www.mamaearth.org.za).