God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Germany “im Herbst” or the 50 scare…

When you ask ordinary citizens, nobody really knows – but the number is omnipresent: 50 followed by 100 000 and 7 days. And the number determines the colour red, present on every map beamed into the background of the newsroom of every TV sender. And there are clearly panic signs visible in the presentations of all the premiers and politicians – dancing around a bushfire triggered by a second wave of a small little virus conquering the world again.

Hectic decision-making, a forward and backward: the accommodation ban for people coming from so-called “red” areas declared, withdrawn, insisted on and declared invalid by courts is only one example of triggering confusion among ordinary people who had prepared to go on local holidays; local holidays which they have been asked for by the very same politicians: don’t travel abroad, stay home.

Germany is a federal state – and the effort of the German chancellor to give citizens a uniform set of rules has been without success in the last weeks – every state has still its own rules written down in lengthy paragraphs – and travellers like me have to study hard to understand how many, how often, how far, how allowed or forbidden certain activities are….

I don’t hear other parameters which would give me more insight into reality: How many people are really sick, how many people are really in their infectious phase – news anchor do highlight the fact of many more testing compared with the first wave, but it remains unclear this is only to comfort the masses or what it really translates to in meaning.

Conspiracy theories continue to raise their ugly heads and obviously the forward and backward has eroded the public trust into those in power; a situation sounding familiar looking into South Africa, from where I travelled to Germany a couple of days ago. It becomes clear, that our systems and our politicians were not prepared for a scenario, every one should have known it will come as history shows and scientists predicted.

The general crisis of humanity triggered by the digital revolution and the advent of social media has found a sparring partner in the pandemic to kick the confidence of human mankind of having all under control out of the window: We are all part of an evolutionary fight for survival and our systems have developed huge gaps which we can’t hide anymore.

It is a wake-up call to return to humility, to simplicity in a certain sense, to a realistic view where human mankind really is standing and a clear indication, that we have to reflect on our place within creation. The way of communication and governance, environmental questions and generally how our systems work and whom we entrust what kind of power are topics to be discussed in time to come. The virus also has taught us that we are indeed a global village and that any attempt to proclaim “our country first” is outright stupid and not constructive, but destructive on all levels.

Where from here?
Uncertainty all over the place – honest awareness of where we stand as human mankind in this pandemic and the realisation of the mere fact, that only a fair balance between state power and individual responsibility can move us out of this mixture of distrust, helplessness and incapacity to find the perfect solution everybody will be satisfied with.

And there is again nagging another question: If the virus would only have shown up in Africa, or only would have taken possession of a certain population – how would it have played out?

Filed under: Africa, General, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Level 1

178 days, 15 hours and 59 minutes exactly is the South African lockdown old, when I write this paragraph – and we finally – since midnight – are on level 1. For many it is time to celebrate “almost freedom and normality” and for others the danger of a vicious circle starting with too much freedom while Corona is still threatening the lives of people.

Whatever it is – taking in the news from all over the world with all the horror news and predictions or the promises of a better future and new insights: this day might be a good day to reflect on the last months; the good and the bad.

And yes, there is certainly also some good to reflect on: the speed of life has indeed dropped dramatically and many people had time to not only spend it with family, but also to think about life, humanity and the role, everybody is playing in this big game called life within the universe.

Some are left with anxieties – being forced to confront oneself and the loved ones is not always only a pleasure; realising how vulnerable one is and that all perceived safety nets can collapse has brought one or the other to stand in front of own limitations. Being helpless against an invisible enemy has its challenges.

Covid-19 has also exposed all weakness of society; in South Africa old habits were visible within military and police and government often showed a real disconnect with society; authoritarian habits and the abuse of power for ideological purposes came to the forefront. South Africa was not alone, quite a lot of politicians worldwide used – or let’s better say: abused the situation for non-health related matters. And this in a time, where social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are becoming a danger for truth, awareness of reality and democracy as we know it. The gap between poor and rich has been clearly visible and in many countries, poverty, hunger and desperation has increased.

A very complex situation indeed, but also a chance for human mankind to reflect on its status and interconnectivity with “Mother Earth”, as she is often called; and the meaning of life and its perspective related to cosmos and universe, to faith and values attached.

It will be seen whether human mankind learns out of it; it will be seen whether societies will strive to be a better sounding board between us humans, serving the purpose to foster peace, reconciliation and life to the fullest for as many people as possible.

Covid-19 has mirrored us as individuals, as members of society, as social, religious and political persons a lot of true colours; the question is whether we are able to act on it or just try to go back to the good old ways.

Filed under: Africa, General, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , ,

Signs of anarchy

Anarchy is defined as a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems. The action of the political party EFF in the last days as a result of an advertising of the company Clicks has shown all signs of anarchy:

Elected members of the National Parliament called for “attack” of their “fighters” on the company and shops resulting in fire-bombing, destruction and clear signs of violence against employees and customers. In many cases police stood by, a clearly different approach recalling the demonstration of employees of the tourism industry, protesting peacefully and in accordance with Covid-19 regulations being treated with water canons and tear-gas.

An almost silent governing party giving room for such violence without clearly speaking out and instructing the national police to not only prevent but also arrest those inciting violence is a clear sign that anarchy is tolerated when it serves an ideological purpose.
Let’s be clear:
In a democratic society violence, incited by Members of Parliament is a no-go. MPs caught in the act must be arrested and disciplined, those executing the “attack” must feel the full force of the law. Democracy provides clear opportunities to deal with racism; violence is non of them.

Nobody defends the insensitive and racist advert allowed by the company Clicks to be posted;  a company which has generally great transformation credentials: BBBEE Code 6 or transformation rating 6, 60% black employees, R8.3 million annual investment in bursaries. As it is known at the moment, there was no plot, no intention and the decision makers were certainly not “whites wanting to provoke”.  It was one of this preventable oversights, which should never have happened in our times. It was a complete unacceptable move which shows how much work is still in front of us to create a society without race categories.

But to counter this unacceptable advert with unacceptable tactics and allowing a small party which was almost not present during the Covid-19 crisis to seize the moment for renewed relevance, allowing some wannabe revolutionaries to speak for the black majority of society in violent terms while the country seeks healing is completely contra productive. And simply not acceptable if we as society are serious to allow the laws of the land and the constitution to govern our lives.

The last days clearly show that the small opposition party of the so-called Economic Freedom Fighters are not willing to adhere to the rules of our new democratic South Africa and regard it only as a play ground to be used when it fits the bill. The shameless attacks on the previous public protector on social media, the argument, that touching a woman means nothing in terms of GBV shows the unsettling truth about those in charge of the party. If we allow this to prosper, we allow for the demise of democracy and the rise of Idi Amin style leaders seducing aspiring youngsters to follow a path of bullying and destructing.

Besides corruption and the National Democratic Revolution ideology, this would be another threat for the development of South Africa as a non-racial society where equality and quality of life are a given for all who live in this beautiful country. Our developing democratic structures are simply not advanced enough at the moment to withstand such onslaught long-term.  We have to find ways to confront racism in ways leading to healing and reconciliation, not confrontation. But we also have to find ways to confront those, who abuse the right to protest in their violent ways.

We need more voices of reason, from society and faith communities, also providing the space to confront and heal in a civilized manner.

 

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , ,

The “impossibility of planing” trauma

It is Saturday, 15.08.2020 – and the since 5 months running state of emergency will come to an end today, if and when – yes, if and when government not will quickly expand it into another month.
Every normal functioning government would be able to declare their intent before the expiry date to avoid confusion and create a vibe of knowing what they are doing – not so in South Africa.

Here deadlines are relative and national government seems to be deciding at will in the last hour – or even later: I recall that the Ministry of Basic Education decided on School opening to be happening at 8 am only on the very day at 11 am. Or our president telling a whole industry to be shut down in 3 hours, having allowed it to open up a couple of days before. On – off like an authoritarian ruler guided either by Chinese influence or yielding to pressure from the opposition in the own party.

So South Africans, besides being in limbo for 5 months with changing lockdown levels, added now to the mix the so-called load shedding levels (which is a nice word for not having enough electricity even the economy is severely down in production and demand) endure since months the impossibility to plan – which I would call an immense trauma. Humans need to be able to have a lifeline of hopes and planing security, families need to know what happens school wise with their children (I have stopped counting the numbers of plans announced, changed and skipped) and business people need to be able to plan for the rest of the year ahead.
While in most of the world governments try to establish a clear way of communication (except Boris Johnson and Donald Trump) with society and has clear methods of communication, in South Africa every minister seems to have his or her own way of expressing what the next steps will be, might be, could be and obviously the ominous National Covid-10 Command Council is in its top secret meetings the owner of the crystal ball deciding the fate of 58 Million people as they wish and when they wish so.

It is simply unacceptable but shows the incline into authoritarian rule which seems to be a BRICS attitude with China, Russia and Brazil in top exemplary positions for South Africa.
South Africa does not only deserve better – it does create an unnecessary uncertainty and unsurenesss which is after 5 months of a traumatic nature.  Add to this the question of ongoing stealing from the people during this crisis done or allowed by the same people running the country, the millions of people now without income and unemployment adding to the already 30% unemployment statistics and you come close to the desperation cutting deep into the emotions of a society still in need of healing from the past.

If the amount of service deliver protests, illegal land invasion paired with explosion of senseless violence and destruction is an indication, then we are in for a rough time. The silence of any national moral or ethical leadership, the silence of church leaders beyond some statements, the despair of grassroots community leaders trying to keep sanity adds to this era of unnecessary trauma and also gives witness to it.

South Africa has always shown that it is able to “maak ‘n plan”, basically to make a plan – and it would help immensely when our national government exchange the erratic behaviour for a transparent process with appropriate communication. The mood in the country is changing and unfortunately it seems that the gap between those in Pretoria and society as such is meanwhile so big, that it takes time for the ruling party to understand and react appropriately. People already in distress need to know that government cares – it is time for the comrades to wake up and give the people what they need: ethical leadership and transparent planing possibilities as well as the healing they deserve and yearn for since 1994.  A crisis is always a chance – to be used for a better future for all and not for the nightmare of serving an ideology.

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

In Anticipation

The disconnect between national government and the South African society is palpable at the moment – and South Africans are in high anticipation of rumours becoming reality that the President will announce the easing of restrictions this week.
So far nothing has happened and given the track record of delaying tactics it is to be expected that it will only be at the weekend, when he will proclaim the news to be changed anyhow before being implemented days later. It is always the same game and mirrors the split in the ruling party, the politics playing out behind the curtain and the extent, crisis is used to change the economic narrative with predictable catastrophic outcomes if realised.
Therefore, time is of essence in South Africa to stop the complete economic meltdown and a so-called 2nd wave which is already happening in unemployment, despair and trauma.
Covid-19 has again shown how complex South Africa can be:
the lockdown, which was only partly adhered to in the townships due to existing conditions, the predictions of infection and death rate which were way over realities materializing, the almost unbridgeable gap between those in power continuing to follow an ANC system of past struggle times complemented with shameless corruption and stealing from the people. Add the revelations of the Zondo commission on a daily base nailing the fact that those in power either willingly participated or witnessed and did nothing to stop the looting under the Zuma government. All the ills of South Africa are lying bare to see for those who want to see it.
And therefore the anticipation of some easing of lockdown is an indication of the pressure building up – people have enough from irrational rules, outright stupid arguments to bolster ideology and power play, so much trust is lost in the new democracy that we can almost talk about a danger zone in also democratic terms we have entered now.

What we would need is political, social and religious leadership which really makes an effort to guide, comfort and lead – so far it is only seen in some places, but very shy as it has to work against a flood of present woes. Courts and civil society organisations have kept the ship South Africa and its democracy and rule of law afloat so far, and it also were those entities preventing more hardship and despair. The country has shown again and again that it could jump from the abyss – but this time it is only possible if there is capability to reconnect politics, business and civil society to form a united front against all the odds South Africa faces. And for this to happen, there must be trust, one of the factors clearly a miss at the moment.

In practical terms speaking: The lockdown has to end – and instead of petty rules we have to learn to live with Covid-19: emphasis clearly on hygiene, physical distance, face-masks in public and testing, hot spot identification and containment. Period. All this can happen without a lockdown.

South Africa has the potential to rise again out of the ashes of its past – this global crisis lend a helping hand to unmask all what is wrong and not healed in this country, but it also showed clearly the potential of civil society and NGO’s and men and women of goodwill to come and join the efforts to tackle what is not right. A clever leadership would cease this moment – and also here: in anticipation…

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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