On July 18 1994, a suicide bomber drove a car filled with hundreds of kilograms of explosives into the Jewish community’s AMIA building in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Eighty-five people were killed and hundreds were injured. The AMIA bombing (proceeded in 1991 with the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires where 29 civilians died) became one of the precursors of the wave of global terror that has swept the world and escalated in decades since then. Last month, I participated in a World Jewish Congress Conference in Buenos Aires as a member of the SAJBD delegation. One of the reasons Argentina was selected for this meeting was that the dates would coincide with the anniversary of the Israeli Embassy bombing on the 17 March 1992.
The year 1994 was a euphoric time for all South Africans. We celebrated the values of democracy and human rights and we spoke of Madiba magic, the rainbow nation, and of course Ubuntu. Life was good. We had avoided civil war and bloodshed and, in the main, crossed the bridge unscathed into the New South Africa.
While 2016 was still in its infancy and we were surfacing from the holiday euphoria, we got the news that has shaken our precious democracy; that racism was well and thriving in our country. Penny Sparrow broke the bubble with her ‘monkey’ comments, followed closely by Steven Hart, Velaphi Khumalo, and Nicole de Klerk. Sadly, I suspect that by the time this is published there will be many more.
Renewed public concern over racism has been one of the defining characteristics of 2016.