God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Hope amidst failure

There was always the question of what comes first for the President of the ruling party: the ANC or the country?

I guess the last days have shown what it means when party politics comes to the forefront and the country comes second. It was not a social question which triggered the looting and destruction, but the fight within the ANC for direction and power. South Africa became the playground for party politics.

Knowingly, the members of the NEC, mostly tainted themselves by corruption and their likes, waited for too long to act against those, who are clearly and without shame, abused their position for personal gain and power. The “system ANC” did seemingly not allow practical self-reflection and the walk on eggshells when it came to resistance of Zuma, family and friends after the constitutional court judgement made it clear, that not everybody is equal before the law. The unwillingness to handle the situation encouraged those supporting the previous President to even go a step further.
The inability and incompetence of the ruling party and the state has shown when the real looting started was mind-boggling. State security and related ministers showed a clear inability to reign in; video clips on the internet even showed those responsible for security on the ground being part of the looting and citizens realised that if somebody is throwing a burning match into a society marred by poverty and unemployment, there will be a major fire, and you are alone to fight it. Another trauma for the ordinary South African on top of all the others still to be treated and to be healed.

But there is also to report a reaction after looting. People came together to protect their areas, they lent police a hand to be able to stand up against looters, and they started cleaning together: pictures warming the hearts and minds of all of us looking for healing, stability and a non-racist society building instead of destruction. The wave of support for those left without anything and whose business was looted and destroyed shows that there is hope amidst failure, that civil society can rescue and build up, creating a future for all.

South Africa can’t wait until the ruling party gets it right and those really interested in the upliftment of the country are getting the upper hand within the party.

To wait would mean to deny a whole generation the future it deserves; it would prolong the suffering of millions living from government handouts, it would not allow for the educational system to improve and the job market to rise to the challenge of job creation.

South Africa needs in these trying times friends who are not only at its side but also honest in the way they talk, it needs partners who are not shy to speak up and to speak out with compassion and clarity.

South Africa also needs time to reflect where it stands in its build up of democracy and how democracy can work in this part of the world. It needs a real South African way to allow for participation and plurality, so that diversity will be a strength and not a weakness.

And it needs a renewed ANC, leaving behind or better incorporate the past with honesty and striving to be a more open political party having the guts to stop cadre deployment and the delusion that without them, South Africa has no future. Everything has its time, nothing lasts for ever; and every achievement is one day history fading away while new challenges are coming up.

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

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, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Out of touch with reality

Sometimes there comes blow after blow and one wonders about the trauma triggered in oneself and how to digest those, work through them and still keeps walking straight and with hope.
While still trying to absorb and digest all the chaos here in South Africa, this week also saw the publication from the Vatican on instructions on pastoral conversion of the Parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the church – issued by the Congregation for the Clergy.

And if you, as the valued reader, now wonder what a Vatican’s instruction has to do with the situation in South Africa, the answer is simple:
in both cases it seems to me in my humble opinion, that the touch with reality has been lost somewhere and somehow.
And in both cases, it seems that history and ideology are playing the major roles.

While in South Africa the governing party has lost the plot and even appears to be destructive in what it claims to have liberated, the Vatican’s publication shows similarities, as it takes its arguments out of a history long gone in current times and partly draws arguments which don’t hold water under the bridge.
It is generally amazing to see in the context of the global village, that many, facing crisis and uncertainty, are moving back and trying to hold on systems, faith systems and social constructs which worked in the past. Nationalism, reminiscent mood, anxiety and the unwillingness to embrace an uncertain future is an interesting mix telling the story of human mankind in current times. Or maybe that others are right in saying, that the digital revolution has overstrained human mankind, exposing our weaknesses and triggering a yearning for safety and security given by what we know and hold dear.

And for those taking a step back and observing, the mix is interesting: in the case of the church we have a real revolutionary style of leadership in comparison with the last popes in Pope Frances contradicting backwards showing instructions, while in South Africa we have the most modern constitution while working with ideologies coming out of the Cold War times. It is those unspoken contradictions which adds to the trauma of living in current times.
While South Africa is yearning to heal from Apartheid and the unbelievable and unashamed corruption till present times, the Catholic Church is yearning to heal from the unbelievable and unashamed abuse of children cushioned by clericalism and a partly abstruse medieval view on sexuality.

 

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, General, 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, , , , , , , , , ,

A new form of state capture?

State capture is defined as a type of systemic political corruption in which private interests significantly influence a state’s decision-making processes to their own advantage. In times of Covid-19 there arises the question, whether not private interests but collective interest of a group within the ruling party significantly influences a state’s decision-making process to their own advantage and ideology.

The installation of a so called Covid-19 Command council, a government grouping which was originally tasked to  deliberate and makes decisions on steps the country should take to manage the pandemic during the lockdown was turned only days later via the Presidency’s official Twitter page into “leading” the response to the crisis. Suddenly a “collective” was ruling South Africa – and during the last weeks, announcements were made only to be withdrawn or changed seemingly at the leisure of members of this council. The rare appearance of the President himself, his soft and moderate approach was often countered by harsh and threatening messages of his own ministers or his co-chair, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The now famous “cigarette selling promise” highlighted the shift in responsibility for everybody to see.

Questions also arose and are not put to rest about the legality of the Covid-19 Command council, but also the way, the entire SANDF was called to enforce lockdown rules, which even the former Minister Trevor Manuel calls in question. It does “not passed the test of rationality”, so Manuel and further: “What you can and can’t buy and so on doesn’t work. Also, the idea that you can exercise only in a three-hour period. None of these pass the test of rationality,” “We need voices to speak to the National Command Council and ask that rationality be the order of the day.”

The attempt to force NGO’s to channel food supply through government – read: through the ANC in most cases – is another sign, that things are not right and motivations have to be questioned. The announcements of various minsters and the president himself of using – or should we better say: abusing the Covid-19 crisis to create a new economy adds to the feeling, that measures taken are not only in the interest of overcoming a health crisis. Limiting possibilities of work for foreigners, demanding a higher percentage for hospitality to open doors again, talking of RET in a time when every business – except the black market for cigarettes and alcohol – is suffering, enforcing BEE on the tourism sector at this moment in time signals intentions beyond health. And when suddenly the procurement of nuclear power comes into discussions – déjà vu is not far away.

The question of the numbers of infections in the Western Province, related to strategy and systematic testing becomes also more and more the taste of a political battle field – veiled threats mainly on social media to tighten the lockdown in the province again and ignoring facts warrants attention.

South Africa needs at the moment the goodwill of all people, it needs transparency and an honest approach to kick start the economy by balancing health and work. We were told that the lockdown has given government the time to prepare for the onslaught of the virus which will happen. We know that a continuation of the lockdown does not serve any purpose in the dense populations of South Africa but only brings our economy further down the drain and unemployment will climb to heights never seen in the country. Let’s not allow a group within the ruling party to jeopardize the progress made and let’s not allow the fragile fabric of the new South Africa been thorn in pieces by the abuse of a worldwide crisis.

 

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

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