Events and Life Mindsets Travel and places

When you’re not the victim of violent crime

This may not be the best option for everyone, but in this case this citizen fought back against violent crime in South Africa, and it worked really well.

Events and Life Politics and government

“The removal of Nene was ‘not breaking the economy’”

I think President Zuma pretty much hit the nail on the head when he said that his removal of Nene wasn’t the cause of South Africa’s flirtation with economic disaster in December 2015, at least in more general terms. I just read an article on BusinessTech titled “Economists can’t convince me I was wrong: Zuma” and a few quotes stood out for me, especially if you read between the lines (literally and metaphorically):

“People did not consider many things,” Zuma said. “The rand had been going down when Nene was there. It had been going down for months and months. It was not triggered by the decision (to remove Nene).”

Removing Nene certainly triggered a virtual collapse but if you look at the Rand’s performance over the last decade and a half, you can see the slide. It has been sliding down the hill since about 2012.

“The removal of Nene was ‘not breaking the economy’…People didn’t understand what was happening and they exaggerated the issue,” he said.

Perhaps, maybe everyone overreacted and blamed the market collapse on that one decision to remove Nene as Finance Minister. Perhaps they should have looked at the bigger picture.

Zuma told the SABC in an interview on Sunday: “He (van Rooyen) was going to come into a very effective, functioning department. I don’t know why people thought that when he comes in, the treasury is going to fall down. I don’t understand.

This is probably one of the most interesting statements the President made. If the Finance Ministry was (and, perhaps, is) a “very effective, functioning department” then the root cause is probably not the Ministry or the Minister (I’m oversimplifying). Perhaps the root cause is the person responsible for the bigger picture: Zuma himself. Perhaps someone should suggest he give his comments a little more thought, possible pass by a mirror … Do they have those things in Nkandla?

Just saying (somewhat sarcastically).

Image credit: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan presents Budget Speech, 26 Feb 2014 by the GovernmentZA, licensed CC BY ND 2.0

Policy issues Politics and government Travel and places

Bureaucracy and South Africa’s new Immigration Act rules

I just read an interesting overview of South Africa’s new Immigration Act rules which have just kicked in which require international travelers entering and leaving South Africa to produce birth certificates and identity documentation for kids and parents. Two things stand out for me.

The first is the administrative headache traveling to and from South Africa with children these regulations have introduced. It’s not impossible but now we have to travel with unabridged birth certificates for our children and adequate ID for ourselves so satisfy customs officials that the children we are traveling with are, in fact, ours. Wow!

The second is just an illustration of bureaucracy at its finest which I had a little laugh about:

Rakuoane on Monday said the governments of Lesotho and South Africa have agreed to constitute working committees of officials of the two countries who would develop an agenda to address strategic issues relating to movement of Lesotho citizens in South Africa.

So, basically, they are putting committees together to meet to discuss what to talk about when they meet, for real. How many business meetings does this sound like? Far too many, I think.

Events and Life Music Travel and places

Johnny Clegg is one reason not to give up on South Africa

I haven’t made a particular effort to hold on to the South African part of my identity since we became Israelis but, listening to Johnny Clegg and Savuka on Rdio, his music reminds me that there are reasons not to give up on South Africa despite its substantial challenges (xenophobia, poor leadership, corruption, crumbling infrastructure and crime to name a few).

In many ways this white, Jewish artist embodied the forgotten ideal of a Rainbow Nation long before South Africa became a democratic country in 1994. Hopefully South Africa’s leadership will remember why this is such an important ideal to realize, one day.

Image credit: “JohnnyClegg Huma” by psykedelic – Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Events and Life Mindsets Policy issues Politics and government

South African anti-Semitism means the country is like most others

I came across the Citizen’s article titled “Alleged anti-semitic attack in Rosebank ” on Facebook today. According to the Citizen:

The assailants allegedly hurled antisemitic insults at the youths and physically assaulted two of the three youngsters.

“[The Jewish boys] were wearing kippah [yarmulke],” said Kahn, who stated that the attack was motivated by antisemitism, as the boys were clearly identified, and the statements directed at them included references to religious and political tension in the Middle East.

These attacks are shameful and, as much as they seem to represent an escalation in anti-Semitism in South Africa, they also seem to point to a relatively new trend in South Africa that I noticed last year during Operation Protective Edge in Israel. Before then, anti-Israel sentiment popped up whenever Israel took action against Palestinians but it largely remained anti-Israel sentiment.

Last year that changed and anti-Israel sentiment became thinly veiled anti-Semitism and then not so thinly veiled. What it signified to me was that South Africa was losing its relatively sheltered status compared to much of Europe which has witnessed violent attacks like this for some time now.

On one hand it seems like South Africa is just following the same regressive trend that has gripped Europe, the United States and other developed countries: it has become more acceptable in some sectors to lash out at Jews if the rage is prefaced by some sort of objective to Israel’s actions regarding the Palestinians (regardless of there being any justification for the rage). I’d say that is just progress except it isn’t. It is, however, not unusual lately.

On the other hand, South Africa following this trend means the culture of tolerance and its embrace for diversity which South Africans began to cultivate after 1994 has withered. Surely South Africa, of all countries, should lead the world with a values-based tolerance for diversity of legitimate opinions and beliefs? Instead politics and sensationalism have done away with any real semblance of an enlightened approach based on Constitutional values and a respect for human rights.

What remains, both in South Africa and elsewhere in the world, is the latest version of a seething and ancient hatred for Jews. Objections to Israel’s approach to the Palestinians by the likes of the BDS Movement is just a cover for a deeper hatred and a much bigger threat that faces not just Israel and the world’s Jews but much of the world’s population.

I don’t think this is the last time people who are visibly Jewish will be attacked in South Africa’s malls and on the streets. Tragically, I suspect this will only get worse in time and the sooner more people realize this and do more to prevent it, the better. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be a politically popular option anymore.

I hope I am wrong.

Events and Life Mindsets Travel and places

Finally home in Israel where we belong

Facebook’s well meaning year end round-up isn’t appealing to everyone. It is supposed to present an upbeat summary of a positive 2014 but 2014 wasn’t a positive year for many people. It was a terrible year for me in many respects and were it not for my family and where we have wound up, 2014 would be ending on a particularly sour note for me.

Thankfully, 2014 is going to come to a close on a pretty good note because our family made a big change to our lives, we left South Africa to create a new life in Israel. My wife and I made the decision in early August 2014 after I returned to South Africa from a short visit to Israel in late July to visit family. It was my first visit to Israel and it transformed how I perceived and felt about this tiny country.

My plan, before we left, was to write about our experiences as Olim Hadashim (new immigrants) but, now that we are here, I’m at a bit of a loss what to write. We had a few hopes about what Israel would be like and, although we are still in a sort of honeymoon phase of our Aliyah process, life here is even better than I hoped it would be. I think it will continue to amaze me even when we are in a daily routine of work and day to day stresses.

Life here is profoundly different in a pretty subtle way. I feel an underlying sense of belonging here that was simply missing in South Africa. That probably has to do with a combination of my feelings about living in South Africa as well as the environment we found ourselves in but, here, it is different in an important way. We’re only at the beginning of our journey to integrating fully into Israeli society. We’re still learning Hebrew; still looking for work; processing basic admin necessary to function effectively here and figuring out the bus routes. Despite that, we are already Israeli and don’t have to justify our presence here even though we have only been here for just under two weeks.

I think another reason I feel at a bit of a loss what to write about our transition is that I don’t want to fall into the trap of criticising South Africa now that we no longer have to deal with the factors that made life in SA uncomfortable. My mother said something to me when we were planning our move that has stuck with me. She said (and I’ll paraphrase a bit) “Don’t start attacking South Africa when you leave. South Africa gave you a lot in the time you lived here.” I think that is absolutely correct. South Africa ultimately became a country that we weren’t welcome in but it sustained me and my family for decades and there are many things about it I will miss going forward. Of course there are aspects of South Africa I won’t miss but what good does it do focusing on negative things?

We’re at the beginning of a challenging journey and making the move here, to Israel, was one of the best things we have done. Israel has welcomed us and our family has already begun to benefit from being here in ways we hoped it may. I don’t think of myself as South African anymore (well, for starters, I’m not – South African law stripped me of my citizenship when I became an Israeli citizen). I’m a learner Israeli, but an Israeli and I am really glad that we are finally home where we belong.


South Africa is in electricity overdraft

Interesting statement about this weekend’s rolling blackouts:

Eskom has also taken a decision to load shed over the weekend in order to build up reserves for the week ahead.

That sounds a lot like:

Eskom is all out of power, we’re going to cut your power so we can charge up the batteries a little to get us through next week …

Of course, if you are inclined to be optimistic, this weekend is going to be all about quality family time, board games and picnics outdoors (if you aren’t rained out, in which case more board games and reading books).

Events and Life

SA Jews proudly supporting Israel

Roughly 12 000 people attended the South African Solidarity Rally for Israel on 3 August, partly in response to vocal and widespread condemnation of Israel and its campaign to defend itself from recent attacks by Hamas from Gaza. It was a remarkable event and the crowd was diverse and united in its support for the Jewish State and the IDF.

One of the outcomes of the rally is this terrific video from Adlast that captures so much of what made this event an uplifting success: