God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Adding insult to hurt

Expected but still it feels like adding insult to the pain, many South Africans feel enduring lockdown day no 132 with no real plan provided to end the madness:
While millions of South Africans try to make ends meet the corruption frenzy of those connected and in government seems to climb new highs.
And to put salt in the wounds of society, the very same person being accused of fraud and corruption and – again with his family in the headlines for the wrong reasons –  Elias Sekgobelo “Ace” Magashule proclaims to the public after a NEC (National Executive Committee) meeting of the ruling ANC party, that the fight against corruption has priority and that the newest PPE scandals has “outraged and deeply embarrassed” the very party whose members are at the forefront of these acts. Stealing and benefiting from the Covid-19 crisis will certainly be one of the low-points of South African politics looking back in years to come.

Knowing the deeply engrained gratitude of those having lived through apartheid times which determines their voting attitude may facts be whatever they are; but also seeing the eroding of trust with those who are not either ideological blind sided or benefiting from the corrupt system, it remains seen which way South Africa will walk in the near and not so near future. Covid-19 has brought on the table all the shortcomings of the new South Africa. It can shatter the dreams of many or be a point of introspective reflection. It can be a time of grace in all the disgracefulness of current behaviour but for this to happen it needs churches and religious communities to lead the way and to create the space. But also on this front there is not really a lot visible right now.

Being a time before local election makes all this even more difficult as the Western Province can surely give witness to; the coordinated and almost sophisticated land invasions and the way, national government appears to deal with the province not under their rule but showing excellence in handling the crisis against all odds complicates things at times. The hospitality industry as well as the wine industry can vouch for this too.

So where from here?
I guess nobody really knows – the secrecy of the so-called National Covid-19 Command Council, the sheer inability of the ruling party in South Africa to find peace amongst themselves and renew, the plight of ordinary people being often ignored and kept dependent on hand-outs; and the general state of affairs of the surrounding countries, not to mention the geopolitical disturbances on the world stage will continue to challenge each and everybody in different ways. May the challenges become opportunities for the better…  Are we not called: Cape of Good Hope?

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

Never give up

Indeed, it is a challenge in our days living in South Africa to balance good and not so good news – and more than once I have been made aware that my postings are rather unbalanced on the not so good news when it comes to Facebook and Twitter.
And I recognize it is true from the outside; even with the biggest efforts to find here and there also good news, the situation in South Africa is bleak at the moment and the battle of national government against common sense, the ignorance for the plight of the people, the frustration bursts manifesting in illegal land invasion, the ongoing corruption of the connected and the sheer insensitivity of South Africa’s President in trying to keep the peace within the ANC instead within South Africa leads to times of desperation and trauma.

And it questions for many also the very foundation of our chosen political system of democracy. The promise of bringing prosperity and freedom to all has not been fulfilled; we are rather seeing politicians playing according to a prescribed book still not having internalized or started to deeply value its content.

Yesterday, the official farewell ceremony for John Lewis, the civil rights hero from the USA took place and the ceremony was guided by his own words, which may hold the key also for our situation in South Africa, where Covid-19 has laid bare all the wrongs and unfinished business of the young democracy:
“When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself”

As said, Covid-19 has laid bare all the unfinished business of the current South Africa – it has shown the inability of most of the current leadership to adept to the values of democracy and the rule of law, it showcases the continued zest for enrichment for the connected and the disconnect between those, who once fought for liberation, but now literally forsake their former ideals to enjoy the perks of a perceived victory, leaving the masses behind, only to be really recognized in election times.

It is exactly this time when giving up is not an option, as such times of deep crisis make or break the future of generations to come. It is a time to voice concern, to lay open the wrongs, to speak out with force, but at the same time to pick up the brokenness of ordinary people and giving them a chance to live, to learn and to prepare for a better life for all in this country. It might seem to be a fight against windmills – it might to feel like Sisyphos rolling the round stone uphill; at the end it is the only way to counteract the ideology and failure of freedom fighters turned overstrained politicians, partly with a taste for entitlement and perks.

Democracy is an act – it is doing the right thing; working and fighting for the rights of those having subscribed to it. One does not need a political post as democracy calls each and every citizen to contribute to its functioning. For this to happen people must learn its ins and outs in theory and practice; they must be upskilled in this important field and then given the space to exercise their democratic freedoms and duties.

And we should never forget that there are many good people in this country, who want the best for the country. It calls simply for the art to connect, to build a network of goodwill and hard work – never giving up the hope, the dreams and the aspiration for South Africa being a place where the constitution reigns supreme and the people of the land live in peace and harmony with themselves and each other.

 

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

South Africa: Day 108 of lock-down and Mandela Day

When years of looting and corruption, of cadre deployment, hand-outs and entitlement, ideological warfare spiced with hidden racism and unsolved trauma never really healed; when all those meet a small little virus conquering the world it is clear that the battle to defeat the bug highlights and shines light on all the dark corner of shortcomings for such a society.
In 5 days we celebrate in South Africa again Mandela Day – we recall a time when the world admirably looked at the country and Africa as a continent took pride in having one of their sons being seen as a reconciler of epic proportion. The miracle of a peaceful transition, the vision of a rainbow nation – the promise of a future for all where race, creed and sex play no role any more and equality and human rights are enshrined in the constitution and the Bill of Rights.

This dream and promise lives on, even if momentarily the situation looks almost the opposite – a president speaking live on TV while millions are plunged in darkness of load shedding and not even able to listen to him and others refuse to switch on the TV assuming the outcome and knowing that things might anyhow change in the days to come. Desperate, angry, helpless – the words of news commentators describing his speech mirror the current situation for many South Africans, who simply try to survive the madness of a developing junk state infected by a virus.

What makes the situation even worse is that the normal citizen can’t distinguish any more what are real concerns of the current political elite and what is the result of ideology and the vicious circle of covering up and in-fights. No wonder, that the latent and often not so hidden tendency to drink as an escape route to forget for a moment has almost become a social one – showcased in the on/off permission of alcohol sale currently forbidden again since last night.

If Mandela Day this week will have one meaning, so it is to keep alive our hopes for this country against all odds. It can’t hide the pain, the hurt, the incompetence, the desperation, the anger; but it can give a glimmer of light, a glimmer of hope. Churches speak in religious speak of realisation as a means to memorize the past for the good of the future – we have to use this year’s Mandela day to realize our potential as a society, as fellow humans; we have to envision the possibilities shown and experienced in 1994 during the First free elections or during the Rugby Final 1995.

The beauty of realisation is that everybody can do it – it is not bound on wealth or income or academic achievements. And it can create the power and synergy needed to overcome the current situation; it can deny the corrupt and criminal within the political elite to prosper further and at the same time bring out all virtues South Africa is also known for as the cradle and origin of human mankind.

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

All was done to the best of the ministers ability

On Friday the Western Cape High Court dismissed an application to declare the lockdown regulations in South Africa invalid and the National Covid Command Council unconstitutional. It walked a fine line making it clear that it was “not for the courts to prescribe to government how it should exercise its mandate in those circumstances.” And given the backtracking of President Ramaphosa regarding the NCCC he clearly avoided a different outcome by changing tune about the role of this structure of government.
While many people were upset with the ruling I thought it was a fair legal assessment – time and circumstances and the persons involved are creating automatically the limitations of actions. I even think that the confusion and intent not to do harm to society was genuine – but ideology and the always backward drifting thinking of national ministers made the case for using and abusing the situation to change the game as such – with all the useless discussions on cloth, cigarettes and other limitations tossed at the life of ordinary South Africans.
Fact remains that lives were not only disrupted but the balance of lives and livelihoods massively disturbed – millions without work and millions will be out of work and income because of the action our government took to fight the virus.  We are still in lockdown and looking at the destruction of the tourism industry and the application of BEE in questions of compensation there is the question of race and racism, the demons of the past, underlying very present in the actions of government in a crisis.

Common sense dictates that the virus will be with us for the years to come; common sense also tells us that lockdowns don’t work on a long term – and instead of hampering the economics much longer government should concentrate on things which simply are the only existing weapons in the fight against the virus:
hygiene,
wearing a face mask in public,
keeping a distance in crowded places,
testing and tracing as much as possible,
motivated hospital staff and enough equipment.
Those measures should be on top of government’s list – those are all things which could be done by all South Africans with a little bit help here and there. Motivation and encouragement instead of finger wagging would help to achieve a collective effort. An effort which would allow for moving out of lockdown, but also leaving behind all the politicising of the Covid-19 crisis.
The numbers of daily new infections per 100 000 inhabitants in most districts of South Africa don’t indicate the need for a further lockdown – they indicate the need for awareness and for taking the people on a road of recovery they can feel, sense and be part of. Looking at other countries like Germany, the magic number for stricter intervention is 50 new infections per 100 000 persons – only the City of Cape Town would fall under more observance applying such measurements.

Covid-19 has laid bare the inequality of society, but also the ideology driving most people in power trying to control every aspect of ordinary South African’s life. It was and still is a time of temptation for power-hungry ministers and party structures; the attempt of Minister Zulu to control the feeding schemes of NGO’s being the latest one. Covid-19 is a chance to unite South Africans and to start the healing process for a society still yearning for it overcoming using and abusing alcohol to escape the pain as a collective by the quantities consumed as a nation.

The fight against Covid-19 calls for abolishing the old systems of thinking in struggle terms, in race categories – its is a chance to create a new narrative born out of crisis, but for that the ability of ministers must grow exponential.

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

Too harsh or justified?

People reading my posts often make contact and ask: Are you not judging the situation too harsh? Does it even help the situation?

And my answer is: Seeing the plight of the people in areas HOPE Cape Town works; seeing the anxiety levels of our staff working in the health sector (and the Western Province is still the best) and quite frankly seeing the abuse of a crisis for an advancement of political ideology one cannot stay silent.

I am also aware that I am in a privileged position to voice discontent publicly; a lot of people fear that saying what they want to say would result in disadvantage for them or their families. Therefore, most criticism you find in WhatsApp groups and close-circuit conversations or anonymous on social media.

As a human being I have to be concerned about the hunger, the poverty, the hopelessness and the suffering of my fellow human beings.
As a priest I have to insist on solidarity against power abuse of those in power, I have to keep God’s promise of a life in dignity for all alive in the hearts and minds of the people.
As a political activist I have to insist that democratic rules are followed and neither politicians nor police or military ignore the rule of law and the law of the land.

This pandemic has opened our eyes to see the gaps between most freedom fighters turned politicians and the “normal” people they rule.  The crisis has shown how little South Africans have moved away from Apartheid times in so many instances: the brutality of the military and police in townships and the snitching in the so-called affluent areas give witness to it.
Politicians like Cele, Mbalula and Dlamini-Zuma have made it clear that the ruling party need much more liberation from their own ideology, and the movement will have a long way still to go to really transform into a political party serving the people.

But having said that all: every crisis, every challenge is also an opportunity. And maybe showing these opportunities were in shortage in my blogs in the last weeks.

The opportunity to understand how deeply entrenched the divide within society is when it comes to wealth and poverty – and it is not black / white; this scenario has changed since the introduction of BEE, eloquently used by those in power.
The opportunity to see all the possibilities again, civil society movements can achieve when there is a time of need.
The opportunity to invest more in understanding how democracy is not only a mechanism, but must be filled with the spirit and understanding, it deserves.
The opportunity to really unite letting skin-colour simply not coming into one’s way while assisting hands on.

And lastly how much we depend on each other, as fellow human beings, as a society, but also as a country on the goodwill of others, as citizens of a global village – realising that we are part of creation, the world as such, not master of the universe, but part of something much bigger. It should make us humble – all of us, independent where our place is in society.

A crisis time can also be a time of healing – but for this to happen an honest discourse has to happen, sometimes wounds have to be opened again to heal proper. In a crisis often honesty starts creeping in because there is no time for long discernment.

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

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