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DIRCO – cream on top of the Clover deal

  • Lindiwe2
“There is no economic ban on Israel whatsoever,” International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) Minister Lindiwe Sisulu told a packed media briefing on Tuesday.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Feb 21, 2019

This was in response to questions following her press conference at department headquarters on the upcoming national elections and matters of foreign policy.

By saying this, Sisulu potentially breathed new life into the dissolving multibillion rand, foreign-direct-investment (FDI) Clover buyout deal. The Boycott, Divest, Sanctions SA (BDS-SA) movement has been doing its best to scupper the deal because of its connection with Israel. BDS-SA’s actions also seriously undermine the strides made by President Cyril Ramaphosa to attract vital FDI to South Africa, business experts said.

Sisulu told journalists that Israel was bidding to buy Clover, South Africa’s largest dairy producer. “There is no economic ban in this country on Israel whatsoever, and we will allow the normal bidding processes to follow through,” she said.

She went on to answer a question about the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) resolution to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel, saying that the government was bound by the resolutions of the ANC (the governing party). “When we have found a way of abiding by the resolution of the ANC that does not disrupt our normal activities either in our country or any relations that may have been established in Israel, we will go ahead and inform you,” she said.

The proposed R4.8 billion deal for Israel’s Central Bottling Company (CBC) to purchase Clover Industries turned sour after pressure from BDS-SA on Brimstone Investment, a JSE-listed black-empowerment investment company which formed part of the bidding group led by Tel Aviv-based CBC. Brimstone was forced to “review” its role in the transaction following pressure from the anti-Israel lobbyists.

The ANC Youth League (ANCYL), however, didn’t appear to get government’s “hands-off-Clover-deal” memo. The ANCYL this week issued a statement distancing itself from the views expressed by Rhulani Thembi Siweya, who sits on its national executive committee, in an article she wrote which was published in the Daily Maverick last week.

Siweya, the founder of Africa Unmasked – an online platform for Africans to deal with African problems – wrote an opinion piece in which she criticised the BDS for its “reckless” handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict. This article went viral within the Jewish community.

In her article, Siweya states, “BDS-SA ought to listen to what ordinary Palestinians yearn for. Its messaging on Palestine is not coherent, and fails to benefit the Palestinians living in Palestine. The BDS-SA policy that Israel has no right to exist, and that South Africa must not pursue policies that are in its own best economic interests, must be dismissed.

“The trajectory taken by BDS-SA to selectively discriminate against entrepreneurial and business opportunities by corporations linked to Israel, if not challenged, may lead to a huge collapse of the South African economy and ultimately lead to unwarranted job losses.”

She accused the anti-Israel lobby group of ignoring South Africa’s realities, and of undermining the country’s national imperative to create an inclusive economy for all, especially the poor masses.

Siweya pointed out the double standards and hypocrisy of BDS-SA, saying that she found it “strange” that it “selectively singles out” only the Israeli “occupation”, while South Africa continues to enjoy bilateral trade relations with many other “occupations”. She went on to list them.

BDS-SA was “deafeningly silent” about such occupations, she said.

“Something does not add up here. BDS-SA must be consistent. So far, it is suspiciously selective, and to South Africa’s detriment. Who is really paying the price for BDS-SA interfering in South Africa’s economy? The answer – South African workers.”

The ANCYL, meanwhile, has reiterated its unwavering support for BDS and its disdain for Israel.

The organisation put out a statement on 18 February clarifying its position on Palestine and the Clover deal. It said, “The message is clear, Israel is an abnormal state, and no normal relations should exist with an abnormal regime!”

It reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian struggle and the BDS movement – both in congress resolutions as well as through practical action. “We often co-operate on events and our leaders have been hosted by BDS-SA, their partners, and the larger solidarity movement.”

“We do not believe that apartheid Israel and its corporations are suitable investors for one of our key commodities. As the YL, we do not support the exporting of our profits to an oppressive regime like Israel and its companies.

“If the deal were to proceed, Israel, through its companies, could blackmail us and our foreign policy by threatening to increase the price of milk for ordinary South Africans.

“We want our people to own our wealth. This so called ‘investment’ is actually a take-over, not a new investment, it is merely the shifting of ownership away from South Africa, with no notable value added.”

There was an all-pervading silence from Siweya, who is a former student leader and youth activist, after her article went out. Siweya does weekly radio shows and writes opinion pieces for several publications throughout the continent examining current issues. However, when the SA Jewish Report reached out to her this week, she chose not to comment.

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