Mashaba suspends Joburg Health MMC for declaring friendship with Israel

City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has suspended his Health MMC Mpho Phalatse for publicly declaring that the city was a friend of Israel.

Mashaba announced the suspension during a council session on Tuesday. 

Phalatse made the declaration on Sunday at a Friends of Israel event held in the city. She has since gone on to share more of her views of Israel on her Twitter account.

"The issue of the conflict in Israel is complex and requires a sensitive approach," said Mashaba.

Personal views

The mayor 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.

Other councillors, including those from the EFF, called for Phalatse to be fired.

Councillor Sipho Sithole described Phalatse's comments as disheartening and called for her to be "wiped out of council". 

"Any African subscribed to Zionism must hang his head in shame," said Sithole.

DA spokesperson Refiloe Ntsekhe told News24 that Phalatse submitted an apology on Monday, and the party will now follow internal processes. 

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) denounced the decision, saying Phalaste was the target of "hysterical condemnation" as well as a "totalitarian strategy" to silence those with dissenting views. This was despite her allegedly clarifying that she was commenting in her personal capacity

"These are just the most recent instances of attempts to silence South Africans who challenge the anti-Israel narrative. It is all part of an environment in which Israel is being demonised to a degree that bears no relationship to reality," spokesperson Charisse Zeifert said in a statement. 

"This is an unacceptable situation. Ours is a democracy that entitles every one of us to hold and express differing opinions. We call on all South Africans to stand up against those who resort to bullying and intimidation to prevent others from exercising that inalienable right." 

The SAJBD said this came after the ANC denounced artist DJ Black Coffee for performing in Israel, and civil society "went for" radio personality Gareth Cliff, "depicting him as a moral pariah for daring to put forward an alternate opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict". 

READ: ANC wants to engage Black Coffee, other artists on Israel performances

Cliff made the comments on his show in May, after at least 60 Palestinians were shot dead and thousands injured after Israeli troops fired from across a border fence at a mass protest in Gaza.

"I looked at what was going on over there and I have done quite a lot of reading with quite a lot of the news articles from around the world and this claim that Israel shot demonstrators is just a blatant lie. It's an absolute falsehood," Cliff said at the time.

"This was an attempt to invade a sovereign nation and border communities to indiscriminately slaughter civilians."

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