President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday asked the Jewish community to join hands with the government in taking the country forward, assuring those who owned land that a solution addressing land reform would be found.
“We want to say that we would like the land reform process to unfold within the framework of our Constitution and to be underpinned by the rule of the law, and [it] should be implemented in ways that will broaden economic growth,” he said at the Gardens Shul in Cape Town.
“More importantly, it should be implemented in a way to promote social cohesion among all South Africans.”
Ramaphosa said many land owners were fearful and looked at reform as an intractable problem.
He said the same was said of apartheid but South Africans proved critics wrong by finding a lasting solution. He believed the same would happen with the land, through reconciliation and negotiation.
Referring to the land issue as a “wound” that had continued to fester, he said it needed further attention by being “dressed up, stitched and healed permanently”.
“Through the parliamentary process, we are certain we will arrive at a solution that provides clarity and certainty.”
Accepting an invitation to join celebrations for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), Ramaphosa was met with thunderous applause when he touched on the fight against corruption, the quest to bring about peace in the Middle East and his hope for a brighter future for South Africa.
He didn’t miss a beat when he greeted the packed synagogue with “Shalom” and even demanded that Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein drop off a copy of the Talmud (religious text) so he could place it next to the Torah in his study.
Ramaphosa acknowledged the role that the community had played during apartheid and continued to play today in “every crevice of South African life”.
‘Freedom and democracy’
Goldstein warmly welcomed Ramaphosa and referred to him as a “true mensch”.
“Your election as leader of the ANC and elevation to the president of South Africa is a great victory for freedom and democracy and the hope of a brighter future for all,” Goldstein said.
“Mr President, we commend you for bravely and resolutely leading the fight against corruption,” he added, to more applause.
Goldstein said the Jewish community had its “sleeves rolled up” and was ready to partner with Ramaphosa to build the economy and create jobs.
He said they loved and cherished the State of Israel.
“During the Holocaust, Jews had nowhere to run and nowhere to turn. We cannot be separated from it (Israel).
“It is in South Africa’s best interests to form strong ties with the only, free democratic country in the Middle East and… to partner with the robust economy and technology of Israel.”
Ramaphosa responded that the downgrading of the SA embassy in Israel was an ANC conference decision but that South Africa stood ready to play a constructive role in the peace process.
“We are clear in our support for the achievement of a Palestinian state alongside the right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security with its neighbours,” he said.
“It remains our hope that people of Palestine and Israel will work with each other and with the international community to achieve lasting, peace and stability… What I would like to say is, let us continue engaging. Let us not walk away from each other.”
Ramaphosa acknowledged the technical recession and said the government was looking at ways to inject more life into the economy.
He said it had been music to his ears when he heard Jewish business leaders were prepared to come forward with a number of proposals on how to further create jobs.
“What we are going through now is just a dark patch,” he said in closing.
“The good thing is that we know where the problems are and as we go on, we know where the skeletons are… and where the bodies are buried. I can assure you that South Africa in the next while is going to be in a far better position.”