God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Germany “im Herbst” or the 50 scare…

When you ask ordinary citizens, nobody really knows – but the number is omnipresent: 50 followed by 100 000 and 7 days. And the number determines the colour red, present on every map beamed into the background of the newsroom of every TV sender. And there are clearly panic signs visible in the presentations of all the premiers and politicians – dancing around a bushfire triggered by a second wave of a small little virus conquering the world again.

Hectic decision-making, a forward and backward: the accommodation ban for people coming from so-called “red” areas declared, withdrawn, insisted on and declared invalid by courts is only one example of triggering confusion among ordinary people who had prepared to go on local holidays; local holidays which they have been asked for by the very same politicians: don’t travel abroad, stay home.

Germany is a federal state – and the effort of the German chancellor to give citizens a uniform set of rules has been without success in the last weeks – every state has still its own rules written down in lengthy paragraphs – and travellers like me have to study hard to understand how many, how often, how far, how allowed or forbidden certain activities are….

I don’t hear other parameters which would give me more insight into reality: How many people are really sick, how many people are really in their infectious phase – news anchor do highlight the fact of many more testing compared with the first wave, but it remains unclear this is only to comfort the masses or what it really translates to in meaning.

Conspiracy theories continue to raise their ugly heads and obviously the forward and backward has eroded the public trust into those in power; a situation sounding familiar looking into South Africa, from where I travelled to Germany a couple of days ago. It becomes clear, that our systems and our politicians were not prepared for a scenario, every one should have known it will come as history shows and scientists predicted.

The general crisis of humanity triggered by the digital revolution and the advent of social media has found a sparring partner in the pandemic to kick the confidence of human mankind of having all under control out of the window: We are all part of an evolutionary fight for survival and our systems have developed huge gaps which we can’t hide anymore.

It is a wake-up call to return to humility, to simplicity in a certain sense, to a realistic view where human mankind really is standing and a clear indication, that we have to reflect on our place within creation. The way of communication and governance, environmental questions and generally how our systems work and whom we entrust what kind of power are topics to be discussed in time to come. The virus also has taught us that we are indeed a global village and that any attempt to proclaim “our country first” is outright stupid and not constructive, but destructive on all levels.

Where from here?
Uncertainty all over the place – honest awareness of where we stand as human mankind in this pandemic and the realisation of the mere fact, that only a fair balance between state power and individual responsibility can move us out of this mixture of distrust, helplessness and incapacity to find the perfect solution everybody will be satisfied with.

And there is again nagging another question: If the virus would only have shown up in Africa, or only would have taken possession of a certain population – how would it have played out?

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

Level 1

178 days, 15 hours and 59 minutes exactly is the South African lockdown old, when I write this paragraph – and we finally – since midnight – are on level 1. For many it is time to celebrate “almost freedom and normality” and for others the danger of a vicious circle starting with too much freedom while Corona is still threatening the lives of people.

Whatever it is – taking in the news from all over the world with all the horror news and predictions or the promises of a better future and new insights: this day might be a good day to reflect on the last months; the good and the bad.

And yes, there is certainly also some good to reflect on: the speed of life has indeed dropped dramatically and many people had time to not only spend it with family, but also to think about life, humanity and the role, everybody is playing in this big game called life within the universe.

Some are left with anxieties – being forced to confront oneself and the loved ones is not always only a pleasure; realising how vulnerable one is and that all perceived safety nets can collapse has brought one or the other to stand in front of own limitations. Being helpless against an invisible enemy has its challenges.

Covid-19 has also exposed all weakness of society; in South Africa old habits were visible within military and police and government often showed a real disconnect with society; authoritarian habits and the abuse of power for ideological purposes came to the forefront. South Africa was not alone, quite a lot of politicians worldwide used – or let’s better say: abused the situation for non-health related matters. And this in a time, where social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are becoming a danger for truth, awareness of reality and democracy as we know it. The gap between poor and rich has been clearly visible and in many countries, poverty, hunger and desperation has increased.

A very complex situation indeed, but also a chance for human mankind to reflect on its status and interconnectivity with “Mother Earth”, as she is often called; and the meaning of life and its perspective related to cosmos and universe, to faith and values attached.

It will be seen whether human mankind learns out of it; it will be seen whether societies will strive to be a better sounding board between us humans, serving the purpose to foster peace, reconciliation and life to the fullest for as many people as possible.

Covid-19 has mirrored us as individuals, as members of society, as social, religious and political persons a lot of true colours; the question is whether we are able to act on it or just try to go back to the good old ways.

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

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, , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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