On 2nd December the South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity (SACRED) proudly hosted Geordin Hill-Lewis for a talk entitled ‘South Africa: should I stay or should I leave’. Mr Hill-Lewis is an MP for the Democratic Alliance and shadow Minister of Trade and Industry.
He began his talk with a long list of things which all South Africans should be deeply concerned about. Many of them are familiar to us: decaying infrastructure, massive corruption and incompetence as well as our worsening financial situation. By the middle of his talk an outsider would have been baffled as to why all South Africans hadn’t emigrated already! It was time for Mr Hill-Lewis to give us the good news which he did – and in no uncertain terms! South Africa still has strong independent institutions – the Office of the Public Protector being one of the most visible. This office in particular had shown that under the right leadership our institutions can become ferocious guardians of justice and the rule of law. We have the right institutions in place and good laws – all we need is the right leadership to use them. Another good sign was the independence of our judiciary. Mr Hill-Lewis gave several examples of Constitutional Court judges who, at the time of their appointment, were rumoured to owe their advancement to their loyalty to the ruling party. Naturally this aroused concerns over their independence. Subsequently all of these judges had shown that they would defend the independence of the courts and have handed down judgments unfavorable to the perceived wishes of the government.
Responding to a question by Reeva Forman about South Africa’s role in the peace-process Mr Hill-Lewis stated that it was vital for South Africa to be realistic about what it could offer. We are not a ‘big player’ in the Middle East and South Africa would be of most use as an interlocutor between the two sides using our own history of successful reconciliation to facilitate constructive dialogue between Israeli’s and Palestinians. He stressed that in order to do this it is vital for South Africa not to take actions which would damage our image of impartiality and ability to work constructively with both sides.
The evening was an informative one, which left the audience with a far deeper understanding of the South African political landscape.
Wishing you Shabbat Shalom – Rabbi Julia Margolis