Motlanthe raps Hajaig's knuckles

Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig's allegedly anti-Semitic remarks, made at a rally in January, have earned her a dressing down from President Kgalema Motlanthe.

The president had "held discussions" with Hajaig, following Cabinet's fortnightly meeting on Wednesday morning, government spokesman Themba Maseko told a media briefing at Parliament.

The deputy minister had "expressed her deep regret to the president for making the statement", he said.

At a pro-Palestine rally in Lenasia on January 14, Hajaig reportedly said the United States and most Western countries were "in the hands of Jewish money", and largely controlled by "Zionists".

Her remarks provoked a storm of protest, particularly from South Africa's Jewish community.

Maseko said Hajaig had accepted that the comments she made were contrary to stated government policy.

"She subsequently apologised unreservedly and unequivocally for the comments, and agreed to withdraw them unconditionally."

Earlier, Cabinet had "expressed concern about the statement as it was contrary to the stated polices of this government regarding anti-Semitic sentiments", he said.

Maseko said Hajaig's remarks were "something that may have been an error of judgement on her part".

While he could not divulge details of the conversation between Motlanthe and Hajaig, he said it was "safe to say that the president would have reiterated government policy that in fact anti-Semitism equates to racism in this country and we will not support any form of racism".

The president had accepted Hajaig's withdrawal of the comments and her unqualified apology and there would be no further action against her.

"The deputy minister has owned up to the mistake she has committed and government is satisfied," Maseko said.

SA Jewish Board of Deputies national chairman Zev Krengel said Hajaig's apology on Wednesday was fully accepted.

"We are very happy with the apology and happy that the cabinet and the president took it seriously.

"We can thank cabinet and the president for getting her to apologise as she did," he said.- Sapa

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