Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba has suspended senior city official, MMC of Health, Mpho Phalatse, over her participation at a pro-Israeli rally on Sunday. Its believed that Phalatse for publicly declared that the city was a friend of Israel and she has since gone on to share more of her views of Israel on her Twitter account. The event, organised by the local Israeli lobby was sponsored by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, the Israeli government department mandated with countering the international BDS boycott of Israel movement.
Speaking about the event, Israel’s Minister for Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan said: “The reality in South Africa is deeply disturbing given the increasing prominence of the BDS movement within the country and the solidarity shown by the ANC towards terrorist organizations. I decided to focus my ministry’s efforts on activities in South Africa in order to strengthen the local pro-Israel community and their fight against BDS and terrorism.”
On Tuesday, Mayor Mashaba said he was disappointed that Phalatse attributed her personal views to the city.
“The MMC’s remarks didn’t adequately address the complexity and sensitivity of the issue. They caused confusion,” remarked Mashaba.
The human rights and Palestine solidarity organization, BDS South Africa, said it welcomes the move to suspend Phalatse. It further called on the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to immediately implement the ruling party’s resolution for the “unconditional downgrade of the SA Embassy in Israel to a Liaison Office”.
“We also need to begin a investigation into Israeli agencies operating in South Africa sowing discord and interfering with local civil society and domestic affairs,” said BDS.
Reverend Mike Oliphant of the Anglican Church in Johannesburg said it was “absurd” that Phalatse would have even tried to suggest that South Africa stands with Israel.
“South Africans, our ruling party, several of our opposition parties, our government, our civil soceity, churches, unions and others all firmly stand with the Palestinian struggle against Israeli Apartheid. On this issue we are united in our diversity! I invite Phalatse to engage with Palestinian Christians and to rid herself of the notion that the Land of Israel that we read about in our Bible is the same as the Modern Apartheid State of Israel that was only created in 1948 (at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians – including Christians). She will soon realise that some of the first followers of Christ were actually the Palestinians! Jerusalem and Bethlehem are Palestinian towns!”
The suspension of Phalatse, which has been welcomed by South African civil society, human rights organisations, churches and unions, came following calls by the ruling ANC and opposition party EFF.
In response, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies said the suspension of Phalase is “an attack on free speech and freedom of association”.