God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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, , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , ,

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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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