Deputy Minister apologises to President for anti-Semitic comments

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cape Town - Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fatima Hajaig has apologised to President Kgalema Motlanthe for the anti-Semitic statements she made at a Palestinian solidarity rally in Lenasia on 14 January.

The President held a meeting with Ms Hajaig following a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday where Cabinet ministers noted the anti-Semitic statements.

"The fact that the President conducted a meeting with her in such short notice means that Government takes this matter seriously," Government Spokesperson Themba Maseko said Wednesday.

He said Ms Hajaig had expressed her deep regret to the President for making the statement and accepted that the comments were contrary to stated government policy.

"She subsequently apologised unreservedly and unequivocally for the comments and agreed to withdraw them unconditionally," said Mr Maseko, briefing the media on the outcomes of Wednesday's Cabinet meeting.

"Further, she assured the President that she does not harbour any anti-Semitic feelings or views and that in her statement issued yesterday, she had stated that 'she condemns, without equivocation, all forms of racism including anti-Semitism in all its manifestations'."

In a statement issued to the media on Tuesday, Ms Hajaig said she was opposed to apartheid, and all forms of racism.

"I have long been cognisant of the immense suffering that the Palestinians have experienced in the form of expulsions, collective punishment, and massacres (of which the recent war in Gaza is but the latest example). It is to this suffering that I spoke at the meeting.

"I deplore the attempts of Zionists to justify policies that have worsened the crisis in the Middle East, in particular unmitigated state violence directed against unarmed civilians; as much as I deplore indiscriminate attacks against Israeli unarmed civilians.

"At a singular point in my talk, and entirely unrelated to any South African community, I conflated Zionist pressure with Jewish influence.

"I regret the inference made by some, that I am anti-Jewish. I do not believe that the cause of the Palestinians is served by anti-Jewish racism," she said in the statement.

Mr Maseko said President Motlanthe had accepted her apology. "The President has accepted her withdrawal of the comments and her unqualified apology and trusts that the matter has been concluded satisfactorily."

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma earlier this week said she intended to lay a complaint against Ms Hajaig.

In a separate statement, Minister Dlamini Zuma assured South Africans that there had not been any change in the South African Foreign policy and that statements in support of anti-Semitism were not reflective of the South African Foreign Policy.

"South Africa's Foreign policy, guided by the values of our constitution, has and will always condemn all forms of anti-Semitism and racism wherever it is found and in all its manifestations," concluded Minister Dlamini Zuma.