PRETORIA (JTA) — The South African Jewish Board of Deputies lodged a complaint with the country’s Human Rights Commission over "inflammatory remarks" made by Deputy Foreign Minister Marius Fransman.
In a radio interview last month, Fransman claimed that Jewish businessmen in the Western Cape region have benefitted from contracts previously held by members of the local Muslim community. "We saw that the DA [Democratic Alliance party] had given over building contracts … that historically were in the hands of Muslim participants and now they have given it to people from the Jewish community," Fransman said.
When asked to comment again on the issue, Fransman refused to retract his remarks.
Fransman’s remarks "are likely to foster ill-feeling between the Muslim and the Jewish communities of Cape Town," the Jewish Board of Deputies told the human rights board.
Fransman offered a backhanded apology on Thursday morning, saying that the Jewish group’s "accusation that I am pitting one religious community against another for vote-catching purposes is deplorable under any circumstances, and is particularly unacceptable especially coming from a lobby that remains silent on its support for apartheid Israel’s human rights abuses as well as the Democratic Alliance’s war on the poor. If what I said created this impression, I apologize."
Fransman told the South African daily Businessmen on Wednesday, "I am asking the Jewish board to act South African … not holier than thou."
In another interview, with the Times newspaper, Fransman said: "The Board should be more ‘patriotic’ and should ask itself whether it represented South African Jews or the Israeli government."
Mary Kluk, the Board of Deputies’ national chairperson, criticized Fransman for leveling false charges of dual loyalty against the Jews of South Africa.
"The SAJBD finds it appalling that Mr. Fransman has attacked those who speak out on behalf of the rights of Jewish citizens of being un-South African," Kluk said. "He has effectively accused the SAJBD and, by implication the Jewish community that it represents, of being unpatriotic because of the stand it is taking on behalf of South African Jews."