God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Hope amidst failure

There was always the question of what comes first for the President of the ruling party: the ANC or the country?

I guess the last days have shown what it means when party politics comes to the forefront and the country comes second. It was not a social question which triggered the looting and destruction, but the fight within the ANC for direction and power. South Africa became the playground for party politics.

Knowingly, the members of the NEC, mostly tainted themselves by corruption and their likes, waited for too long to act against those, who are clearly and without shame, abused their position for personal gain and power. The “system ANC” did seemingly not allow practical self-reflection and the walk on eggshells when it came to resistance of Zuma, family and friends after the constitutional court judgement made it clear, that not everybody is equal before the law. The unwillingness to handle the situation encouraged those supporting the previous President to even go a step further.
The inability and incompetence of the ruling party and the state has shown when the real looting started was mind-boggling. State security and related ministers showed a clear inability to reign in; video clips on the internet even showed those responsible for security on the ground being part of the looting and citizens realised that if somebody is throwing a burning match into a society marred by poverty and unemployment, there will be a major fire, and you are alone to fight it. Another trauma for the ordinary South African on top of all the others still to be treated and to be healed.

But there is also to report a reaction after looting. People came together to protect their areas, they lent police a hand to be able to stand up against looters, and they started cleaning together: pictures warming the hearts and minds of all of us looking for healing, stability and a non-racist society building instead of destruction. The wave of support for those left without anything and whose business was looted and destroyed shows that there is hope amidst failure, that civil society can rescue and build up, creating a future for all.

South Africa can’t wait until the ruling party gets it right and those really interested in the upliftment of the country are getting the upper hand within the party.

To wait would mean to deny a whole generation the future it deserves; it would prolong the suffering of millions living from government handouts, it would not allow for the educational system to improve and the job market to rise to the challenge of job creation.

South Africa needs in these trying times friends who are not only at its side but also honest in the way they talk, it needs partners who are not shy to speak up and to speak out with compassion and clarity.

South Africa also needs time to reflect where it stands in its build up of democracy and how democracy can work in this part of the world. It needs a real South African way to allow for participation and plurality, so that diversity will be a strength and not a weakness.

And it needs a renewed ANC, leaving behind or better incorporate the past with honesty and striving to be a more open political party having the guts to stop cadre deployment and the delusion that without them, South Africa has no future. Everything has its time, nothing lasts for ever; and every achievement is one day history fading away while new challenges are coming up.

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

When incompetence meets ignorance

When incompetence meets ignorance, normally there are consequences – and the changes in the entry regulations for Germany regarding people coming from areas with virus variations are an example of dire consequences for business people, investors and frankly those in South Africa, who are not able any more to sustain themselves.

Germany has changed the entry rules for mutant variation areas: India, Great Britain, Portugal are suddenly only High Incidence Areas while South Africa, the SADEC region and Brazil remain closed for non-Germans and to add hurt to insult, prescribes 14 days of quarantine without the possibility of early testing to be able to move on.

Obviously, everybody affected is screaming at Germany, but to be fair, one has to take a step back to appreciate the situation in its entirety. One has to admit, that the national government of South Africa failed its people a great deal. The vaccine procurement disaster, the corruption and stealing of Covid-19 relief money, a suspended national Minister of Health and a Minister of Tourism with questionable credentials now running the show, the attempt to use the lockdown to progress on a left ideology and the continued disaster produced on all levels using cadre deployment policy did not and currently does not help to remedy the situation. There seems to be no trust in Europe in the ability of South Africa’s ruling party to contain the virus – and all the nice pictures of Ramaphosa in Great Britain recently can’t change this. Political pleasantries for TV never automatically mean realities behind the curtain.

On the other hand, preventing fully vaccinated people from South Africa with in Europe approved vaccines to travel to Germany and to sentence Germans coming back to 14 days quarantine is clearly not a balanced approach and shows an ignorance which results in discrimination. It does also not appreciate the fact, that measures should be balanced between rational necessities and the freedom guaranteed by the German constitution. Looking at statistics, Germany has meanwhile predominately infections with the Delta variant. To open up for India and Great Britain where this variant is also dominant, but refuse to do the same for South Africa and other Southern African countries has the taste of bias, old school thinking and ignorance.

Even if obviously Germany comes first for Germans, to add to more downfall of the economy of another country – and we have to recall that even when South Africa had an incidence rate of 11 – no South African was allowed to travel to Germany- there should be more considerations and not only lip-service.

The current situation and rules are not helpful, they discriminate against those doing business, having job offers or study permits, they disrupt the lives of many without a balanced approach. They ignore negligently the already dire situation of many living in South Africa and those in Germany who would like to keep a lifeline with this African country.

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

A visit to Nuremberg

Visiting Nuremberg on my trip through Germany, I was invited to walk the site of the Nazi Party rallies – learning about the size, madness and logic behind an area featuring several huge buildings either unfinished or now crumbling , a parade street and the Zeppelin field for deployment of hundred-thousand of people to listen and worship the “Führer”.

Listening to our guide, I once again realised how mass events can be tools of dictators and fascist leaders to melt the individual into a mass, triggering unison reactions whilst the individual stops thinking.

It reminded me the spectacle of the Chinese Communist Party in Peking we just witnessed, celebrating 100 years of Communist dictatorship in a mass spectacle, carefully choreographed. Add the parades in North Korea or Russia, but I guess one cannot forget the trial runs of Donald Trump and his events in this regard: people forged into a mass forgetting reason, proper thinking, and they act as one body in the direction those in charge wanted them to go.

Nuremberg has once again reminded me of the perverted ways of designing a world according to a leader or party’s vision; it has reminded me again how important it is to resist even traces of phasing and manipulating and equalizing the thought mechanisms of the majority.

In this context I think about Hong Kong and Crimea, but I also reflect on Hungary and Poland; it comes to mind also the greatest nation on earth, as the citizen of the USA call themselves. The Republican Party in the USA shows how fast a usual democracy supporting party can drift into almost fascistic and manipulative shallow waters, following one dominant person while punishing anybody daring to disagree.

As supporters of democracy, we have to be on guard and as human rights activists we have to resist attempts to curtail or diminish human rights and human freedom. Democracy and freedom are no fast selling item, but values to be fought for every day. And they are values we should be grateful for every day.

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

Youth Day

Commemorating the events of 1976 – Soweto uprising – lives lost – dreams destroyed – future killed.

Since the advent of the New South Africa we hear rightly, that youth and youth development, youth employment are falling under the most important and pressing issues, South Africa has to tackle.

At the same time, ordinary citizens are again and again reminded by looking into the reality beneath the Sunday sermons of politicians, how messed up the situation is, especially when it comes to youth unemployment. Not sure if it is incompetence, wishful thinking of ideologists, political fantasies of bygone times, unsaved hurt of the past or the pressure to perform and keep up the illusion of action even in the eye of proven underperformance that causes this discrepancy between words and realities.

Whatever it is – South Africa will only have a future for all if youth have a dignified way to learn, to study, to train and to fulfil a satisfying role in the social and economical spheres of society.
If the high rising unemployment rate will continue in speed and volume as currently happening, the country will not saved by illusion, dreams and Sunday talks of the Presidency or the relevant departments in government.

Obviously, there are obstacles to solve the problem: real and perceived racism, real and perceived imbalances in the economic sector, the pressure of BEE in its current form and shape and the political scenery, which happily involves their own ideology and enemy image destroying many constructive opportunities. And clearly a failure in the educational sector on many levels.

We owe it to those who sacrificed their lives in 1976 and thereafter to get it right and to build a South Africa where young people have all tools at hand to prosper and make a decent living. It is a challenge which remain with urgency in our times. And only if we conquered this challenge, Youth Days in South Africa will be happy and celebratory in substance.

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

Racist teachers remarks…

It sounds familiar in South Africa: accusations of racist remarks, racist deeds or racist intentions are every weeks’ news: schools, companies, institutions – and this time the German International School in Cape Town.

I don’t want to go into the details of this case but look at it from a different and more general perspective:

Accusations fly – then a broader audience takes part – political organisations join in – protests, sometimes violence, and the at a given point the next location, the next scenario, the next accusations. From outside, very often emotions are triggered without even knowing the specifics of a case. For some, those accusations are a welcome motivation to get into fight mode; for others it is the eternal circle of pulling the race card, when all other arguments are lost and nothing is left than taking out the racist hammer to destroy the possibility of serious arguments and search for the truth of the matter.

Maybe it is time to step back and look at the problem of racism, perceived racism, abuse of racism accusation as a weapon of choice from some distance. If we really want to tackle the problem of racism, but also the problem of using it as a weapon, we have to invent a response which is structured and able to look at a case from all sides. Emotions, protest, placards, violence and political grandstanding are poison.

Obviously this only will work if people are willing to confront, assess, acknowledge the problem and if they are really interested in allowing for healing for the sake of a peaceful future. It demands listening skills, acknowledgement of history and a non-judgemental attitude to allow for this acknowledge and healing process. Add to it an open mind and a caring heart, as well as the social and political will to succeed. It requires a protected safe space to allow for honesty and self-reflection,

But: it really should not be facilitated by politicians or state institutions here in South Africa. It should be far away from political parties.
In my humble view, creating this structured approach is a task, proven and acknowledged churches should invest in and called upon. Here, the sacred space could create a practical tool to allow for the process to unfold. Unagitated, serious and non-destructive, but with the clear aim to learn, to overcome and so to put in pillars for a racist-free society. South Africa will only succeed to create a future for all if we are able to do so – and we could once again be an example for the world.

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

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