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, , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , ,

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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