God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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, , , , , , ,

No shame

In South Africa we all still deal with the complexity oft the past – nobody seriously can deny this even if the new dawn stretches back to 1994 starting with the first free elections. Society has such has learned through the Truth- and Reconciliation Commission a major part of the Apartheid but there was never a real leadership in healing society – and if I say society I mean all parts of it – everybody I encounter of any skin colour has a story to tell, everybody has wounds to show and everybody is waiting for some more healing and soothing of hurt endured.
What is indeed mind-boggling is the sort of entitlement, many especially from the ruling party, but also smaller ones like the EFF and others bring to the table of society. It seems that wounds of the past, even if they were those of the last generation, are reason enough to be entitled to any kind of compensation one wishes for. And looking at the looting of state coffers and stealing from the poor, looking at crashing the VBS bank and take away the savings of so many poor people, I somehow always have the feeling that shame is at miss. Watching people like Zandile Gumede currently, but also Dudzane Zuma, Julius Malema, Flyod Shivambu, Hlaudi Motsoeneng or Brian Molefe – and you can go on and on with names for hours to come , it is amazing to see the confidence they show almost being certain that they need not to be fearful and anxious of being caught.

This no-shame-show filters through society and it makes it easier on all levels simply to copy it and destroy even more fabric of society.  If South Africa really wants to stay course to a better future there must a change of hearts and minds also on this level. People must be able to feel what is right and wrong, they must be people leading by example, especially those who have positions of power in politics and economics. The value system, South Africa is still maintaining deep down in most of its ordinary citizens, the moral compass, which is not gone totally but hidden under a mountain of blunt entitlement must come to the forefront again. We need leader with a sense for shame and a sense of social responsibility governing their very action.

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

Desperation meets incompetence

xeno
Picture: copyright: Spotlight Jesuit Institute South Africa

“Mr President how should we react ? What about you ? In just over 48 hours a boxing champ shot dead , a UCT student raped and killed , a child kidnapped from school , stores in Malvern & Jeppe looted and burned , 607 Patients at Baragwanath wait up to 9 months for an MRI scan.”

This twitter from Ashraf Garda yesterday describes the situation and questions most South Africans have in our days – while a new dawn was promised and people started to believe it, the reality kicks in that a new dawn also needs new people. Moving forward and having the incompetence, the corruption, the ideology of yesterday as part of the deal will never work as also Zimbabwe shows in an very intense way.
But South Africa would not be South Africa if there is not a twist to the story: While some journalists paint a bleak picture for the foreign press and undermine tourism which counts as one of the most important income sector of the country the truth is that tourists are very seldom even get in touch with all the murder, violence and lack of service delivery. It seems that two movies are playing out for the time being and only those who paint with broad strokes are not able to see it. And contribute to the downfall of society even more as jobs are lost.

Keeping people in work and creating new jobs, bolstering the tax base, strengthening the service delivery record of government on all spheres are the fundamental requirements if this country is destined not to fallen prey to despair and chaos. Creating more and more situations where role models and success stories counter the hopelessness and despair of the ordinary people is needed. And of course government must play its part: Shelving the madness of an NHI , stopping to run behind a socialistic tainted ideology which has been proven to fail a long time ago, retiring with honor all those whose only credential are struggle stories from the past, putting whatever money is left in infrastructure, education and health and last but not least partner with reliable NGO’s and civil society organization to turn the tide. I know this is a lot asked in our situation where it seems that the corrupt political elite’s ethic filters down to the streets of our major cities.

And it will only work if the president of this country – instead of traveling the world and talking nicely – shows leadership, stops the cabal of the Zupta fractions in it’s track, reassures the nation not with talk but the right action in showing that honesty, hard work and dedication to the well-being of society are at the forefront of public service. Healing also starts when justice is served, as slow as it may be in a democracy – but those implicated at the Zondo commission must have their day in court so that people see that indeed everybody is equal in front of the law.

Desperation of the poor meets the incompetence of many in government, incapacitated by a strong ideology – the good news is: this is not a physical law but a status to be overcome by using common sense and the yearning of most people in this country for a better future for all. It’s possible or as a Nike advertising states: Just do it! And please: don’t blame foreigners for your own sins and lack of action and planing…

 

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

Elections reflection…

It is done: The South African election has been concluded and the observers are left with quite bias feelings. On one hand the election was generally free and fair and without major glitches. Also violence was not prominently to be seen during the day. The participation was very low: only 65.98% of possible voters took the chance to cast their vote – it seems that especially young people who were very vocal on social media forgot to register for the election day.
Looking purely from the outside the result is astonishing: The ruling party, having majored in the last years in corruption, state capture, dishonesty and simply stealing from the poor were again rewarded with leading the government. More than 10 million South African, mainly in rural areas where service delivery has collapsed or is in the progress of collapsing have voted for those responsible. Millions of grant receiver have still not understood that the grants are not given by the ANC but government. The myth of the liberation movement being the only capable party to lead South African and some major strategic mistakes of the official opposition party have surely also contributed to the result as has the lack of education in most regions of South Africa.  And politicians clearly guilty and contributors to state capture are still in the driving seats of the organization which is split to the core between those who have realized that things have to change and those who want to continue plunder without any sign of guilt or conscience.

If history will repeat itself then this election result confirms that a liberation movement turned political party will continue to govern till the majority of liberated are left with nothing while those in power reap what they can to enrich themselves. South Africa was told it is special, having Madiba magic in the beginning of the new democracy – it is working hard in the moment to dispel this myth.
Listening to SC of the ANC Ace Magashule who insists that only the party counts and not individuals and that MP’s are bound to the party but not their conscience it shows that there is no learning curve or new insight yet which could rescue the ANC on the long run – and with it South Africa.

Additional concern is that almost 2 million people voted for a man with fascist tendencies and a party which exploits the hopes of those unemployed and uneducated. The “Idi Amin in the making” Julius Malema showed stronger support in the most poor parts of South Africa – where people did not have anything to lose anymore.

The DA remained in power in the Western Province and this is indeed a blessing as the Western Province is doing much better as other provinces as shown by the congratulatory letter of the national parliament to Helen Zille, the outgoing premier, now to be replaced by Alan Winde. But their supporter base has lost votes to other parties – Musi Maimane is a very young leader and surely he would need more matured advisers not bound to party politics. Building a race-blind party is in the current environment a challenge and it will remain one for the foreseeable future.

Education, health and land reform as well as economical stimulus are the buzz words of the future deciding on the future of South Africa – together with the question who will lead the healing process of society and turning the tide of racism, which showed its ugly head again and again during election time. I hope and wish that churches will be much more prominent in this field – wouldn’t it be wonderful if churches, mosques and synagogues would become places of story telling, real listening and healing.

And obviously decisive will also be whether state capture can be ended and those responsible having their day in court. Having politicians involved campaigning for the party in the last weeks was indeed a pain in the neck and seeing some of them being in charge of the ruling party remains a disgrace and a big question mark on the way forward. Coming clean is never easy – but the only way to move on and develop in the right direction.

May we see the wonder that those elected to the new national and provincial parliaments are not listening to people like Ace Magashule and others but using their conscience and their love to the country and their dedication towards the well being of society. We need honest brokers guided by the constitution and nothing else to have a chance. We need people who can and will jump over party lines to do what is right for the people of South Africa. We need another Madiba moment like in 2004 where all are pulling in the same direction and where hope and trust overcome obstacles  – South Africa still has a future if those in power act in their majority with responsibility and love for the country.

 

 

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

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