HRC says Fransman violated the dignity of SA Jewry
In 2013 Marius Fransman, at the time ANC Western Cape leader and Deputy Minister of International Relations, made a series of offensive and inflammatory public statements about the South African Jewish community. These included alleging that Jewish businessmen were unfairly benefiting at the expense of the black population in general and the Cape Town Muslim community in particular and accusing the elected Jewish leadership of being disloyal to South Africa and of trying to undermine economic transformation.
In view of the fact that Fransman was a public figure holding high political office, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD decided to lay a complaint of hate speech against him with the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). This week, the SAHRC issued its finding on the complaint, recognising that although Fransman's comments did not go so far as to constitute hate speech, they were hurtful to and impugned the dignity of members of the Jewish community. Accordingly, the SAHRC has directed Fransman to apologise. The Commission further described Fransman's comments as "insensitive, disrespectful and not designed to bring about the unity that he [Fransman] professed to be important to advance".
The SAJBD's complaint has therefore, after an inordinate and regrettable delay of five years, finally been vindicated. Earlier this week, the SAHRC also finalised a similar case against another prominent Western Cape politician, Tony Ehrenreich, noting that he too needed to apologise to the Jewish community for offensive statements made against it. We are pleased that bodies that have been constituted to uphold South Africans’ constitutional rights are delivering on their mandate.
The SAJBD is also encouraged by the SAHRC's recommendation that Fransman has "a responsibility to conduct himself in a manner which is consistent with Constitutional values". This is indeed something that all South Africans, and in particular its elected leaders, should take to heart.
Today, more than ever, we need to find ways to engage with one another in a civil, respectful and empathetic manner, especially concerning issues where we hold divergent viewpoints.
Statement issued by Charisse Zeifert, Head: Communications, South African Jewish Board of Deputies, 14 September 2018