Johannesburg suspends councilwoman for saying the city is a ‘friend of Israel’
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Johannesburg suspends councilwoman for saying the city is a ‘friend of Israel’

A month after South Africa recalls its ambassador over Gaza clashes, mayor says he's 'disappointed' by Mpho Phalatse's comment at pro-Israel event

Mpho Phalatse, a councilor in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, speaks at a Temple Israel Heritage Center gala event on May 9, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Mpho Phalatse, a councilor in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, speaks at a Temple Israel Heritage Center gala event on May 9, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The mayor of South Africa’s economic hub Johannesburg suspended a senior councilwoman Tuesday after she made a public declaration that the city was a “friend” of Israel.

According to a video of her speech, Mpho Phalatse, a council member in charge of health, said at a weekend pro-Israel event: “I would like to declare that I am a friend of Israel and the city of Johannesburg is a friend of Israel. Shalom.”

“We value you, we celebrate you, we appreciate you, feel at home…” she told participants at a conference held as part of a series of events organized by pro-Israel community and religious groups.

Mayor Herman Mashaba announced that he had decided “to suspend… Phalatse pending an investigation into the full and proper context in which those remarks were made.

Mashaba said he was “disappointed” that the councilperson attributed her personal sentiments to the city on such an “emotional and sensitive” issue.

The councilwoman is a member of the country’s main opposition Democratic Alliance which is in power in the city of Johannesburg.

The party supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last month, South Africa recalled its ambassador to Israel “until further notice,” in protest of the deaths of some 60 Palestinians in violent clashes with Israeli troops on the Gaza border on May 14. Almost all of them later turned out to be members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, according to admissions by the Palestinian terror groups.

South Africa’s ruling party also resolved last December to call on the government to immediately downgrade the country’s embassy in Israel.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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