God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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

South Africa on the edge – and why NGO’s are in this time so important

We have to be honest: Corruption, the inability of freedom fighters turned politicians, sheer greed and no time to develop proper political and social leadership under the pressure and expectations of the new dawn – all those factors have brought South Africa on the edge of disaster – painted nicely in very dark colors yesterday with declaring “Stage 6” of load shedding. A very nice word for mismanagement as well as non existing or minimal maintenance by Eskom officials and the result of a transformation policy kicking out institutional knowledge and beefing up manpower far more than the operations necessitate.

It is felt like a time of crisis, a time of anxiety and a time where people and society feels left alone fighting forces on a daily base they can’t influence – being at the mercy of irrational SOE’s and broken services deliveries and somehow a very bleak future.
In such times the power of NGO’s and civil society organizations are coming to the front: they are often the rescue net for many ordinary citizens – they are able to give hold and a perspective for those feeling powerless, they are passing on the small flame of hope – in the darkness of load shedding a small flame has indeed the power to light up and guide the way.
In such times it becomes clear that politics alone can’t solve a countries problems or cover all the missteps done in the past. Non-governmental organizations, volunteers and all those forces for good are the stabilizing factors making sure that the social fabric of society is not completely broken.

Such times may be a wake-up call for the future that politics recognize more than ever before the need to develop a culture of cooperation, of reliable partnerships to strengthen the service delivery people are deserving on a daily base. In South Africa this culture is still in its infancy – often one has the impression that NGO’s are gap-filler or paid cheap sub-contractors of state entities not living up to the promises of past elections. It is time to elevate those relationships onto an eye-to-eye level.

At the end state entities and NGO’s are serving the same people – they are called to support the dignity of every citizen and enable him / her to live life to fullest as guaranteed by the constitution and the Bills of Rights.

NGO’s can’t replace government run services, but they complement and at times like ours even cushion lack of service and soften the anxiety and fear attached to it. In doing so they also cushion and influence the picture, in this case South Africa is giving to the rest of the world. All a reason more to realize how important NGO’s are in our times.

 

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

Networking and the role of NGO’s

Ending my visit to the USA and returning back to South Africa, there is time to reflect on what I take home from my trip besides  good new contacts and lots of goodwill and support.

Well, the first is that the USA and South Africa have lots of common ground – socially and politically.
Visiting the food bank and having an open mind while traveling there is undeniable the common ground of high poverty rates. And in both countries the system produces those who never have a chance to get up – despite the myth of the “American dream”. In the USA it is the system of less governmental assistance and a brutal battle about coming up which produces either winners or losers, in South Africa it is the other way around: government handouts to keep the masses at peace and dependent and after some time there is the culture of entitlement. Add corruption in a big way in South Africa, which paired with the abuse of BB BEE creates a thin layer of very rich people while the rest has to continue to live around the official poverty line. In both countries this creates a gap which widens every day and civil society has to step in with NGO’s and other organizations to bridge the gaps – on one hand a blessing for those who lost out, although every NGO faces the dilemma to somehow also “support” the non-function of governmental involvement and cement the status quo.

Another mutuality is in both countries state organs are used to settle political scores – and with the instrument of non-public run Grant Juries in the USA and the coming secrecy law in South Africa we are in both countries in danger to lose out more civil rights and freedoms our ancestors have fought very hard for. Listening during my stay in the US to people fighting pro-life issues being subjected to prison and year-long fights through the juridical system to clear their names, being observed, wire-taped and somehow threatened it feels in essence not that far away from South Africa, considering what happens to those falling out with the ruling party.

I guess it is this treat to civil rights and freedom of speech which makes it at the end of the day so important to have NGO’s and PBO’s function in both countries – and independent in which field of expertise they are working, they have also to add to a healthy culture of check and balances in politics and society of their respective country. Voluntary engagement can only grow and make a proper impact if done in a society which respects the basic rights of it citizen and ensures their well-being on a level above the poverty line. Maybe one can go so far saying that besides the separation of powers  the culture of voluntary work within civil society organizations is essential for the functioning of a state or country. Therefore the work of NGO’s is always also a political one – even if one tries to keep out of daily politics.

Networking, exchange of ideas between non governmental organizations adds  so to  the “people power” to counter the again and again emerging imbalance within a country created by an over-demand of power and influence by those in government. As even most democracies have created a group of professionals who run the country a lifelong in changing roles  there is the necessity of a strong civil society representation.

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

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