The South African Jewish community has honoured IFP leader Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi on his 90th birthday for what they have described as ‘this great man’s warm friendship to our community and his unwavering support of the State of Israel’.
The tribute, jointly organised by the SA Zionist Federation, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, the SA Friends of Israel and the Office of the Chief Rabbi, took place on 8 October at the Glenhazel Shul of the Yeshiva College campus. It was presided over by the Rabbi Avraham Tanzer of the Glenhazel Shul and Rosh Yeshiva.
Welcoming Buthelezi, Ben Swartz of the SA Friends of Israel, said it was ‘great for all of us here this evening to pay tribute to one of the greatest statesmen in South African history and a warm friend of not just the Jewish community in SA but supportive friend of the Jewish State of Israel as well’.
“Over the often deafening noise of the irrational and destructive role played by the ruling party [ANC] in the [Jewish/Palestinian] conflict, there have always been many consistent voices that have unreservedly and unapologetically played a role of advocating for a constructive and helpful role in the complex and challenging world of the Middle East.”
He added that one of those voices had always been Buthelezi who had unfailingly made his position clear, and often he had come in for criticism for playing a calculated and responsible role in these matters.
“Prince Buthelezi has always made it known that his position is one of balance and fairness. He has made it clear that resolution to the painful conflict can only lie in a peaceful and negotiated solution. And in order to achieve that ultimate goal he has always made it clear that it remains South Africa’s role to play a constructive role in the conflict-free of favour and prejudice.
“Prince Buthelezi we thank you and salute you for the strength of character, resolve and principle you have displayed not only in terms of the Middle East but for your warmth and friendship to SA Jewry and indeed to all South Africans across the divide.”
In his address, Buthelezi said, “I cannot express the depth of my appreciation for your kindness, for celebrating my 90th birthday and honouring our friendship. I am proud to see how many friends I have in the Jewish community.”
Buthelezi added that his only sadness was knowing that ‘our celebration will be met with animosity in some quarters’.
“But whatever criticism you face for celebrating my legacy, and whatever criticism I face for my friendship with the Jewish community, we are both following the prescripts of our conscience. To me, that is the measure
The IFP leader took a swipe at the ANC for its decision to downgrade South Africa’s Embassy in Israel, describing it as ‘short-sighted and regressive’. He said it stood in opposition to the country’s role as a mediator for peace.
“I am pleased to see that President Ramaphosa will address next month’s conference of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and hope he will be able to provide some answers on how this move intends to assist in resolving tensions in the Middle East.”