God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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, , , , , , , , , ,

Reclaiming the City??

In South Africa, especially the Western Cape and Cape Town the question of redressing the past is a hot topic. And lot is written about the recent so-called “Tafelberg School” judgement and as usual the war of words is between those who feel Apartheid spatial planning has to be rectified and the City of Cape Town is not doing enough and those who defend the City of Cape Town’s handling of the sale which is now stopped in its track. Movements reclaiming the city want available space being used to diversify the population and to make it affordable to live in the city and its direct surrounding suburbs.

Not denying the ills of Apartheid spatial planning and the question of redressing it I fail to understand the way it is proposed by activists for many reasons.

The first is the pattern of trying to redress the past in focusing on the city which is already highly densified; in parts more than roads and services can handle.
Secondly Covid-19 has clearly shown the disadvantage of high density in cities – pointing rather than to the fact that the cities of the future will have to have more central hubs where people want to live and work.
Thirdly I believe that a future can’t work within the old patterns of thinking.

I understand all the emotions, the real ones and the ones produced for a purpose; but emotions can only be the trigger point for developments – they are not very helpful when strategizing and executing to reach the goal.

So instead of claiming the city back my question would be how we can create more central hubs within the greater Cape Town area where people want to live and work. What kind of institutions or landmarks could be established in other areas than the inner city attracting people of all heritages wanting to live and finding work around them.
Putting the Zeiss Museum or the stadium at the Waterfront or its proximity was not a really clever idea  – they could have been a focal point in other areas of the Greater Cape Town area attracting tourists, business and people wanting to live close to such a landmark.
Reclaiming the City sounds in this context like trying to use old frameworks and outdated thinking for a future which should be so different – redress should happen in creating those new spaces which are attractive and conductive to people from all skin colours.
Creating several hubs will lead automatically and naturally to a diversity in population without creating costly court actions, hurt emotions and old pattern thinking.
Young activists should work together with modern city plans to avoid learning from those who don’t want to leave their backwards turned thought motifs.
If not the yearning for a better future the practicality and common sense demanded by the Covid-19 pandemic should guide any further city development: More hubs, more space to live and work stretched out instead of densified areas just for the sake of an unjust and ugly history. Reclaiming means in this context not to create a mirror of the past, but space to live and strive for a just world giving redress to those who live now. And to ensure equality and a life to the fullest for all.

To have everywhere in the Greater City of Cape Town area the opportunity to live and work – this should be the aim of the game. And in following this aim the historic parts will change automatically as part of the whole.

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

Can a Catholic vote for Trump?

I know:
This might be a strange or even outrages question to ask but it is one which drives me since month being a Catholic priest and watching US politics from afar, talking to US American citizens and seeing the ripple effect of US American politics changing the way the world used to work and the value system attached to it.
This might also be a strange question insofar as religion or faith should not prescribe for any voter whom he or she in her conscious decision decide to vote into office. Politics can be a dirty business, there is no one in this field who can claim for himself or herself a halo of sainthood during holding office. And it is good practice in many countries, that pastors or churches can’t give and should not give guidance to their flock whom to vote for in the sacred duty of electing office bearers.

There are indeed often many different political solutions and most of them have a sort of bloom hovering over them – there are so many different ways to see a matter and to decide a matter.
So my question is not touching on policies of a party; it does not question superficially the party affiliation of Catholics. For me the question is much deeper located as the current President of the United States has proven to  use lies and distortion as tools of governance, and he is clearly living in a world of his own – accused of racism and being a womaniser. Reading his tweets paints a perfect picture of the man in office.

So the question is:
How much of lying and self-absorption is allowed for the highest office, a democratic country has to offer?
Where is the limit when those faculties interfere with the greater good of a democratic society in a way damaging exactly these goods and the values attached to human decency, democracy and human rights?

I took note in the last days on social media that prominent Catholics for Trump argue his stance of pro-life as the all overriding factor – in my humble opinion ignoring that being pro-life not starts and ends with pregnancy but should include the track record touching on environment, asylum seekers, death penalty, racism and many more topics where life is threatened. Honesty, respect are other pro-life values not to be missed out.

The social teaching of the Catholic Church gives the state a positive moral function as an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights and build the common good. Its purpose is to assist citizens in fulfilling their responsibility to others in society. In today’s complex society citizens need the help of government to fulfil these responsibilities and to promote the common good.
In the times of Covid-19 the role of government has even become more crucial in guiding and unifying people and sectors of society. The ethics of solidarity will become in the future a much stronger pillar of Catholic social teaching – a solidarity which will have to override purely national interests in the connected world of today.

So once again the questions:
Where do we draw the line as Catholics believing in the sanctity of life, in encountering Christ in every fellow man and women, seeing the imprint of the divine not only in every brother or sister of the human race, but also in our environment, in nature and creation with all the diversity it entails?

Where do we draw the line observing abuse of a position in a society with democratic values, when exactly those values are undermined, annulled and circumvented – while at the same time God is invoked numerous times and a way forced to get a photo op in front of a church using police, tear-gas and force – bible firmly hold in hand?

There should be a line in the sand…

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

In between

“In between” – that is surely for most of us living in South Africa the ‘state of affairs’ when asked how one feels after a long, currently still running lockdown, which was marred by nonsensical governmental decisions, clearly political motivated moves and prohibitions and the attempt, to rewrite a failing economy according to fantasy driven revolutionary and socialistic world-view, add some racist undertones.  Not to forget the difficulty to comprehend stealing of Covid-19 funds through fraudulent tenders which according to our President has its roots in the Apartheid times. The latter argument does not deserve any further comment.

On the good side we statistically have had clearly fewer casualties through Covid-19 then predicted; even though the lockdown was far away from perfectly executed. In the well run Western Province the prophecy of overrun hospitals and the exceeding demand versus existent capacity never materialized and this province became a showcase what South Africans are capable of if they plan and execute accordingly. South Africa has definitely the capacity to weather the storms of a pandemic. Competence instead of cadre deployment does help, lifestyle audit instead of empty promises of such – empathy instead of ideology – lots to learn from the Province, which certainly has also its faults.

On a personal level many lost job and income, hunger and despair became regular guests in many of the township communities; violence, illegal land invasion and service deliver protests gave and still give witness of the nothing to lose sphere, describing the mood of many having lost hope for a better life. Food security is on an all-time low, unemployment on an all-time high – and the gap between ordinary South African and their national minister in government and those connected visible like never before. Covid-19 has laid bare of the woes of South Africa, all the skeleton hidden under the carpet are in the open, to be seen by those who want to see it.

While some industries are trying to recover and restart, others are desperately waiting for the opportunity to kick-start – depending on opening the borders again. Many African countries are welcoming tourists again responsibly – in South Africa, the hospitality industry is impatiently waiting – the relevant bodies have presented safety protocols but it seems that national government has some second thoughts considering the industry white dominated. The discussion about assistance based on race was an indicator for certain considerations of the relevant minister in this regard.

We are in between – and the next weeks will show whether the so-called new normal becomes really the normal without lockdown and disaster regulations. Emphasis on face-mask, distance and hygiene should be the order of the day – opening up a way out of the ‘in between’ into a new chapter.

In between times are always openings for possible fair redress and progress – even if the chances are small that a powerless president and a corrupt ANC system will use this time wisely and speed up a development of sustained progress, hope will die last. Let’s wait and see, but not too long: times in between, dragged out, are becoming missed opportunities.

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

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, , , , , , , , , ,

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