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Op-eds

IEC extends voting hours for expatriates

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev (3)
This week, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) was working with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to resolve a problem that has arisen regarding the date on which South Africans who will be abroad at the time of the upcoming elections will be able to vote. The designated date for this vote (provided those who intend voting have registered to do so beforehand) is 27 April, which falls on Shabbat, as well as the final day of Pesach. It therefore precludes a substantial number of Jewish community members from participating.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Mar 14, 2019

At a meeting between the board and the IEC on Wednesday, it was agreed to extend voting hours at stations where there is a Jewish community to enable people to vote after Shabbat is out. It was explained that the date itself cannot be changed, since it being a Saturday caters for expats who find it difficult to take time off work to vote. Moreover, since voting abroad is already considered a “special vote”, it is against IEC regulations to hold another “special vote”. Under the circumstances, we feel that the outcome achieved was a fair and reasonable one, and we appreciate the willingness of the IEC to accommodate us. We have issued a press statement on this, and refer those interested to our Facebook page.

Marlene Bethlehem continues to serve commission

The Jewish community has from the outset had a special connection to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights (CRL). This Chapter 9 institution was established under the Constitution “to foster the rights of communities to freely observe and practice their culture, religion and language”. It also promotes understanding and respect between South Africans from different backgrounds. When the commission was constituted in 2003, SAJBD past president Marlene Bethlehem was successfully nominated by the board to serve on it as a representative of the Jewish community, and indeed she was chosen by then-president Thabo Mbeki to be its first deputy chairperson. She continued to sit as an ordinary commissioner after completing her initial five-year term, finally stepping down in 2013 after 10 years of distinguished service. Bethlehem brought much honour to our community through her sterling work on this body, and earned the respect and affection of all she had worked with. In light of this, we are delighted by her recent appointment to the selection panel that will choose the new commissioners.

Well-deserved recognition for Cycalive

Related to the theme of fostering ties of friendship and respect between people from different backgrounds in South Africa, we were delighted to learn last week that the Torah Academy Cycalive project received the bronze award at the Premier's Service Excellence Awards. Every year since 2002, Cycalive has brought together Grade 11 pupils from the Torah Academy and their counterparts from a range of racially and culturally diverse schools in Gauteng to cycle from Johannesburg to Durban to raise funds for education in under-resourced schools in the province. It was the SAJBD’s idea to nominate this inspiring project, and we also helped to prepare the motivation.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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