God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Fatigue and the lack of the art to think long-term

I guess nobody wants to be in the shoes of those in political office when it comes to Covid-19. Even when the theoretical threat of a pandemic was known to academics and politicians alike, Corona visited without real warning – and the Chinese system to hide unpleasant truth did not help in being prepared. Italy paid the heaviest price at the beginning of the pandemic arriving in Europe, but meanwhile many more countries experience what it means if the implicitness of daily life is pulled away from societies.

Of course in the times of social media, we have millions of people who know it better – and whatever politicians say or do, it is wrong for quite a portion of society and pepped up by fake news, ideology and outright concious lying we have arrived in split societies all over the world: those who rebel against any sort of restrictions or even questioning the pure existence of the virus and others on the other margin of society who can’t live without their daily dose of sanitizers on everything which theoretically could bring danger into their homes.

There are also massive failures to be noticed; in my country of residence I could mention :
the ordering of vaccines by the South African government and its non-existing transparency in this regard is an example for failure to live up to the duty of those in charge; there are also noticeable behaviour patterns, which warrant criticism like the visible sheer lust for authoritarian rule as presented by some ministers and the inability of thinking with logic and consistency or deliver the needed services at all.

Globally we see fatigue when it comes to rules regarding restrictions – and the willingness to adhere to seemingly every day changing rules is clearly going down. Generally besides all complexity there is one notion which seems to be present in all countries and societies:
The lack of the art to think long-term.

It does not matter where you look, the four or five years election circles in most democracies have changed the mindset of those in charge – instead of long-term vision there are only short-term thinking having the next voting day in mind – even in non-democratic countries like China there is the tendency visible to act and react rather with short-term vision pacifying people on a certain level. Gone are the days when leaders had real visions bigger than life and certainly their political life-span. Contributing to this short circuit thinking is certainly also the instant “feedback” via social media; the phrase “shitstorm” has entered the realms of communication and decision-making, and it is often not to the benefit of society.

Looking at my country of birth Germany – the currently constant onslaught in headlines promising more lockdown, harder lockdown, longer lockdown as a permanent feature is contrarily to fostering compliance and adherence to rules. The very core of being human: closeness, touch and social interactions are on the list of forbidden fruits in pandemic times – and only measured action and perspective given in positive language will bring people to endure hardship in this regard on the long run. Pushing, threatening, confusing through changing messages will spill back – making up and pretending are the enemies of compliance and peaceful adherence.

A clear indication of the state of mind is the non-celebratory reaction of the advent of available vaccines: instead of celebrating science rightfully for working hard and in short time to bring a solution to the table, in most countries the mourning and questioning of facts and advances is mind-boggling. And it should give cause to serious reflection.

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

A pleading president

If the situation would not be so dire, one could be more amazed about the pleading president, South Africans experienced yesterday evening on television. Addressing the nation he introduced more stringed measures to stop the out of control spiralling infection rate, pleading with South Africans while fighting tears to adhere to the rules.

It was a confession that the national government had lost the grip on infection and people; a bitter result of lockdown rules in the past which did not make any sense and at parts were unconstitutional mixed with a general distrust in the population witnessing the corruption levels especially in Covid-19 times of those in power and well-connected. Additional a police force riddled with corruption narratives and a police minister, whose virtue lies definitely not in honest police work or leadership. No improvement here from the failure of “Mr. Fix” as his predecessor. So enforcement levels and capabilities are at an all-time low. Understaffed and often not sufficient trained honest policemen are battling to remain on top of situations.

Add to this mix the strategy of keeping people dependent on hand-outs and an education system which often fails to produce matured thinking and one comes closer to the problems South Africa is governed by in our days.

The ban on alcohol sale and consumption in public was the right move, it highlights the fact that South African society at large has a drinking problem, maybe born out of the misery and hopelessness of people and the still not healed past. On the other hand there will be again a black market and some people, also well-connected will earn again the big bucks like in the times of the cigarette ban some months ago.

Where from here? The vaccine is for South Africa certainly the most promising fix in this situation; but all the commotions about late payments promise not a smooth sailing in this department. The promised vaccine for the first quarter 2021 has suddenly moved to the second quarter – and the indicated big announcements by the President yesterday still have to materialize before one can bank on it.

Covid-19 remains a challenge to the young democracy, and it continues to highlight all the failures and shortcomings of South African society. In this, we are not different from other countries. But we maybe have more to lose if we don’t get it right.

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

Blessing Ceremony

In Delft, the blessing ceremony for a safe space campus called “The Nex – Indawo Yethu” has taken place yesterday in the presence of Premier (WP) Alan Winde, Minister for Human Settlement (WP) Tertuis Simmers, Executive Mayor from Cape Town Dan Plato, Consul General of Germany Matthias Hansen, religious leaders and various guests and collaborators.

The Nex – Indawo Yethu is a safe space project of HOPE Cape Town (www.hopecapetown.org) and will holistically offer services: health, social services, early childhood development, youth work, afterschool care, vocational dual training, entrepreneurial skills development training for the people within the greater Delft area. This project is in collaboration with the Western Cape Government, the City of Cape Town, the government of the Free state of Bavaria and other NGO’s and institutions.

The blessings were given by a Catholic priest, an Imam, a Rabbi and a Sangoma. Here are some pictures from this event.

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, HOPE Cape Town USA, HOPE Gala Dresden, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Snow from yesterday

Schnee von gestern” – “snow from yesterday” are yesterday’s news – so a German saying – and today we have moved on after World Aids Day. For 24 hours the pandemic which killed roughly 33 million since the beginning of the pandemic while 76 million have been infected in the same timeframe took somehow centre stage again.
In the times of Covid-19 with so far 1.5 million death such days of memento are somehow subdued, people are too busy with the current worldwide pandemic. So the day passed more quiet than normal due to restrictions – the usual suspects gave press statements and those in the field did their duty to remind the world, but even this felt half-hearted and at times decent to not get into competition with the headline creating Corona.

For me, World Aids Day was a day of reflection on how the AIDS pandemic would have played out, if not “only those gay people” would have been hit at the beginning but everybody.
What would have happened if President Ronald Reagan had put aside his misguided religious views and acted properly and in line with his duties to protect every citizen.
What would have happened if care, worry and empathy had prevailed and not the feeling by many that they called it on themselves with their appalling lifestyle.
How many lives would have been spared, how much suffering would have been avoided? Do we care to reflect and learn out of it?

Working in the field of HIV/AIDS more than 20 years I sometimes wonder how this country I live in would have evolved without the pandemic shattering the dreams and hopes of so many South Africans till this day.

Looking at Covid-19 in South Africa, there was this déjà vu – the same mechanisms kicked in – panic, fear, uncertainty in overdrive in the health sector, stigmatisation and it took time to settle down in the health sector and reason prevailed, and now, in current times, almost carelessness on the streets in the face of the second wave.
Of course, in this case, vaccines are in reach, even if we learned yesterday that the South African government is very late to secure those for the country and pay their dues in time. Being late was also the trademark of this government in times of HIV – so nothing new on this level.

And the question remains: Have we learned out of the AIDS pandemic enough to rise to the occasion?

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

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, , , , , , , , , ,

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