Howard Feldman

The day Zuma got it right

2017-01-12 12:21

President Jacob Zuma says that South Africans should not travel to Israel. And he is right. 

The fact is that I have just returned from the country and having seen it for myself, I could not agree with him more. It would simply be too upsetting for South Africans to see what has been achieved in the very short time since Israel achieved her independence. And more so given that she is surrounded by enemies who swear her destruction daily.

Jacob Zuma is right. And considering that he achieves this feat once in a decade, this is well worth publicising. 

His ANC is a mess. Corruption and wholesale looting has defined his leadership. He alone faces hundreds of criminal charges, and is hated equally amongst all races of South Africans. All South Africans want is for him to go away. To just leave and never come back. He is the president of a country that begs for better, that deserves more and who can only succeed without the horror of his presidency.

So when he tells South Africans not to travel to Israel it is worth listening to. Because he knows that it will be impossible to not compare the two countries. 

Israel has very limited natural resources. It doesn’t have the gold and the platinum and the coal and the chrome and the manganese and copper that South Africa has. It doesn’t have the water and the dams and vast open spaces on which to cultivate whatever is desired. It doesn’t have neighbors who wish her well and with whom to trade and she is forced to spend her resources on defending her existence. She is under constant existential threat from both within her borders and further afield and is challenged daily in ways that South Africa could not possibly imagine.  

Israel is imperfect. Her people are conflicted and troubled and flawed. They are survivors of Hitler’s Europe and the ethnic cleansing of the Middle East where Jews were purged from countries that had been their home for hundreds of years. They are from North Africa where they had more in common with their African brothers in culture than with fellow Jews from Europe. They joined with Muslims and Christians and atheists; all of whom were drawn or forced into a small country the size of the Kruger National Park. They arrived broken and tired. And then they started to build. Sometimes successfully and other times not. Despite this, together, they created the country that Jacob Zuma does not want you to see.  

He doesn’t want to show South Africans a country that leads the world in innovation, that has all but eradicated its water crises, that sees medical breakthrough after medical breakthrough and one that is obsessively focused on the honesty and integrity of its leaders. 

Jacob Zuma does not want South Africans to see a country that interrogates its prime minister for accepting cigars as gifts. He does not want you to see a country that jails its members of parliament for accepting bribes and corruption. So much more convenient it is for him to retreat to the narrative of the “oppressed”. Because that is the safe place where once, a long time ago, South Africa may have had the ability to show the world about transformation. 

Israel has challenges. Major ones. And the solution is not visible and tangible. Her history is littered with the murder of her children and the tragic consequences that follows. Tokyo Sexwale spoke of the tears of Israelis and Palestinians being tears on the same face. Mmusi Maimane has chosen, like other leaders in the South African political arena, to go and see it himself. 

He will see wonderment and beauty and innovation and progress and he will see the challenges of conflict that at one time belonged only to the Middle East. He will be confused and impressed and he will be sad and joyous. But mostly, he will be able to see the country and to decide for himself. 

And he will see the many ways that Israel can assist in the betterment of South Africa. He will find solutions to challenges that Africa faces, and will return a better leader who is better able to inspire.

Jacob Zuma is right. For once. South Africans should avoid travelling to Israel. At least for his sake.

- Howard Feldman is the author of Carry on Baggage and Tightrope and the afternoon drive show presenter on Chai FM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    zuma  |  jacob  |  israel
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