Joburg MMC Mpho Phalatse apologises for Israel comment

Phalatse was suspended shortly after she called Israel 'a friend of the city' during a speech at the South African friends of Israel national conference.

FILE: Suspended Health and Social Development MMC Mpho Phalatse. Picture: @mphophalatse1/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - The City of Johannesburg’s Health and Social Development MMC Mpho Phalatse has apologised for comments she made earlier this month in which she called Israel "a friend of the city".

Phalatse was suspended shortly after making the remarks during a speech at the South African friends of Israel national conference.

In a statement, she says she would like to apologise to all residents who were confused or hurt by her declaration.

The controversial speech resulted in her suspension by Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba, who said he was disappointed that the MMC attributed her personal opinions to the city.

Phalatse says she now realises that the nature of the middle-east conflict is a sensitive subject that should be approached with care.

However, she also claims her remarks were taken out of context as the speech in its entirety touched on the local government's commitment to freedom, fairness, opportunity and diversity.

Phalatse has further clarified that her Health and Social Development Department is aided by both Jewish and Muslim-aligned organisations around the world and she wasn't suggesting a particular position on the Israel-Palestine dispute.