President Cyril Ramaphosa with the SA Jewish Board of Deputies Photo Facebook/ SAJBD
Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa is facing backlash from the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) after meeting with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) at his residence.
The president has always been accessible to different groups in the country. From having Iftaar with the Muslim community to having meetings with other groups. However, Na’eem Jeenah, Director at Afro-Middle East Centre, believes that questions need to be asked about the recent meeting.
“It raises questions in terms of the context. What was discussed and if the president is accessible to the people, he should also be transparent.”
The issue raised by Jeenah is that the SAJBD has been extremely critical of South Africa’s policies on Israeli Apartheid crimes. The meeting was also held in private as opposed to other meetings with religious communities. These are held in public. The National Security Advisor, Sydney Mufamadi, was also present. An indication Jeenah says that this was more than a regular meeting.
“Him being present means there was something more to it. Something political. Something security related. And one can only imagine this had to do with South Africa’s position on the Palestinian issue and on Israel. If it has to do with Israel, one might ask why Minister [International Relations and Communication] Naledi Pandor wasn’t invited.”
Jeenah said that he wasn’t expecting anything from the SAJBD. The president is duty bound to provide an explanation to the citizens of the country if he is asked. So far, no information about the meeting has been released by the government. Members of the PSC have questioned why the president even met with the SAJBD. Jeenah pointed out that they are South Africans and as such, they have every right to meet with the president and discuss their grievances.
Can the PSC get a meeting with the President
The PSC says it is incredibly difficult to get a meeting with any minister let alone the president. Jeenah has advised them to request a meeting with him and see if they have any success. He also noted the PSC has never had a meeting with Ramaphosa.
“We might have a president who is very accessible to various constituencies within the country which is a good thing. The question is whether he actually is. Or is the complaint by some in the solidarity movement that we would never be able to get a meeting with the president, but the SAJBD can easily do so, is that correct or not?”
This could be a challenge for a group, such as the SABDS Coalition, to ask for a meeting with the president. Will the request be turned down or accepted as quickly as the SAJBD’s, asked Jeenah.
Jeenah questioned whether the president met with representatives of South Africa’s poor and disadvantaged. The president often meets with business people, but Jeenah doesn’t believe that much attention has been given to other groups.
Meeting with any government official has its own benefits. Now the PSC must attempt to get their first meeting with the president to raise their concerns. And discuss the issues the SAJBD brought up, should it pertain to the Israel-South Africa relationship. Na’eem Jeenah spoke with Ashraf Garda, listen to the interview here.