With the date for elections, which must take place before July 2014, fast approaching, the African National Congress (ANC) aims not only to secure its unassailable position as the national governing party, but also wishes to govern in each of the nine provinces. A ferocious battle is shaping up in the Western Cape, the only province ruled by the main opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA). Cape Town is South Africa’s showpiece city due to its well-run DA municipality, which breaks the mould of corruption and nepotism so prevalent in most other municipalities. Cape Town is a city that works, its downtown area is safe, cosmopolitan, pulsating with coffee shops, clubs and pedestrian-only streets.

Behind the scenes, but now spilling into the public domain, the ANC is preparing a battle plan that threatens not only the peace of Cape Town but to fragment communities that they consider to be dispensable. Marius Fransman, leader of the ANC in the Western Cape, said the ANC is ready for the 2014 elections and ”we have analysed the Western Cape and made an assessment” — that they require the Muslim vote to win. About 700 000 Muslims live in the Cape, in contrast to only 16 000 Jews. The opening salvoes of Fransman’s strategy have been to link the DA to its alleged support of Israel by saying one of the main issues the DA needs to be taken to task on is its stance on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. “We’ve seen the DA speaking in four tongues on the issue of Palestine.” In reality and for obvious reasons the DA has refrained from being sucked into Middle Eastern politics and has steered a deliberate neutral path.

Fransman has expressed his partisan support for the Palestinians on numerous occasions and in his Voice of the Cape radio interview on February 26 he said: “I am also the deputy minister of international relations and we are very concerned about the parties in the country that have an anti-Palestinian agenda. They want the voters from the Muslim community but they are doing everything in their power not to support the Palestinian people.”

Fransman then ventured to identify his party with the poor whose plight he also blamed on the DA by saying that the “DA has acted against the will of the poor”, thereby trying to reinforce what previously was a widely held stereotype that the DA is a party supported by mainly rich and white people. Fransman made an explicit anti-Jewish remark: “That we have picked up that the DA has handed over building contracts in Bo-Kaap, in Woodstock and Observatory that were historically in the hands of Muslims — now they have given them to the Jewish community. This is not right. They must not divide our people. We must try to unify our people. Therefore it is something that I am specifically concerned about as the leader of the ANC in the Western Cape and we want to warn the community to see how best we can empower them.”

By highlighting the ”plight of the Muslim community” and then proceeding to instigate that Jews in some way are unjustly misappropriating what Muslims should be entitled to, Fransman insinuates that Jews are usurpers, not true South Africans and he fails to acknowledge that they too have historical rights to land and contracts in these areas. By referring to Muslims as ”our people” he clearly portrays Jews as not our people. His statements are overtly racist and divisive and cannot be left unchallenged.

These utterances are consistent with Fransman’s speech to the Muslim community in Athlone on July 14 2012 in which he said: “Economic diplomacy could be one of the most effective weapons of change in the Palestinian situation. Palestinians and their supporters, inspired by the economic boycott of apartheid-era South Africa, have been trying for years to emulate our success in that terrain. Until now their campaign of divestment and boycott has had negligible economic effect, but the voice of our government could be a symbolic boost. However, I am glad to inform you that our government, through the ministry of trade and industry (DTI) has recently, in May 2012, released a government notice 379 of 2012, as a strategy to apply economic pressure on Israel.”

He then went on to note that he was ” highly inspired by the role played by organisations such Open Shuhada Street, PSG, the MJC, Al Quds Foundation and others” . It is poignant to note that the Al Quds Foundation does not recognise Israel even in its pre-1967 territory (pre the so-called ”occupation”). In its June 2009 editorial it blamed Israel for ”occupying Palestine for more than 60 years, uprooted for more than 60 years, living in fear for more than 60 years. When does it all end?” I have previously challenged Fransman about this viewpoint and questioned whether it is official South African government policy not to recognise Israel, in its pre-1967 borders?

During the fourth ANC policy conference held at Gallagher Estate and subsequently in December 2012 during the ANC Conference in Mangaung, the ANC passed a plethora of anti-Israel resolutions and adopted boycotts and sanctions against Israel as official ANC policy.

There are sound historical reasons for a close bond between the ANC and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), particularly because of the support of the PLO for the struggle against the minority apartheid regime, which is acknowledged by South African Jews. It is however concerning for Jews to feel that they are blamed for the ties between apartheid South Africa and Israel, when Israel was not even among the top 10 trading partners of apartheid South Africa. The United States and Europe were by a long shot the largest trade partners of apartheid South Africa and suppliers of military equipment as well. Saudi Arabia and Iraq supplied oil. It is this obsessional focus on Israel’s alleged transgressions that prevents South Africa from putting the past behind it and allowing normal trading, cultural and social relations from developing with Israel. The coup de grace in these deteriorating relations, is the spill over from the anti-Israel invective to anti-Semitic invective.


  • Ben studied at Wits, the Hebrew University, London School of Economics and University of Pretoria. He has two master’s degrees and has written four books on anthropology. He was the founding member of Jews for Justice, which took a stand against apartheid and provided assistance to victims of violence in Crossroads. He started Boston House College, a multiracial school in 1979. He currently serves as chairperson of the SA Zionist Federation in the Cape Council. He is married with four children.


Ben Levitas

Ben studied at Wits, the Hebrew University, London School of Economics and University of Pretoria. He has two master’s degrees and has written four books on anthropology. He was the founding member of...

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