God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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, , , , , , , , , , ,

Middle ground or hiding incompetence – South Africa, quo vadis?

The chaos continues in South Africa:
Take the opening of schools through Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga – aimed to happen today – announcement last week, shifted several times and ended almost at one point in time in announcing, that students, who should be at school on Monday, 1st of June at 8 am would be advised by the Minister at 11 am the same day whether they have to go to school 3 hours earlier. Makes sense? No, but it reflects an incompetence, which could drive people crazy in our challenging times.
At the same time President Ramaphosa, who always repeated to adhere to the advice of the health professionals revealed, that the scientists, who advised government, told the minister to go from Level 4 lockdown to Level 1, as the lockdown measures have lost their meaning. The possible unconstitutional Covid-19 Central Command decided to ignore the advice and again lost no time in wasting time to write up new rules and regulations and giving ministers the opportunity to live out their authoritarian habits.
Looking at sciences and the experience of especially Germany, where the Pentecost weekend saw masses on the streets again and going on holidays, the infection figure did not rise. According to those in the medical field, there are some factors contributing to the surprisingly low numbers: wearing of a face mask and being able to be outside during the day. It seems more and more clear, that not the distance alone, but being in a confined space triggers more infections – the face mask and fresh air are the tools to avoid catching Covid-19. The aerosol factor in closed rooms become more and more important in transmission.
Also clear is that the virus will remain with us for a while and that most of us will go through an infection – healthy lifestyle, a safe working environment and again, fresh air and a face mask are the tools remaining powerful in slowing down or keeping down infections till a vaccine is found.

It is beyond understanding, that the government of South Africa, instead  of doing what it promised again and again to do – to adhere to medical advice and at the same time strengthen the economy and avoiding more poverty, hunger, despair and job loss simply ignore their own promises and keep on concentrating on making up rules for levels with no health benefits. Looking at the disaster of opening the schools in a meaningful way, realising how the transport system is not ready as Minister Mbalula had to admit mentioning unprepared PRASA; having the whole ESKOM and SAA dilemma not sorted out, the middle ground is nothing but hiding the incompetence of preparing the country for the new normal. Instead, fighting against booze and cigarettes, supporting a black market with benefits for people certainly “connected”, discerning for days which T-shirt can be bought in which level was the order of the days.

It is not a coincidence that the very same days, people worry about corruption looking at the billions made available for assisting those in need, amaBhungane and its #GuptaLeaks partners publish another lot about corruption and kickback history, reminding South Africa, where we are coming from and that the very same people, who let this happen, are still sitting in government and parliament. Talk is on to take the pension funds of millions of hard-working South Africans to bail the country out and make money available and there is the fear, that we end up like other African countries when all monetary wealth is gone and there is nothing left to loot.

Establishing the Fraud protection unit for the stimulus packet, opening up the country for business again and concentrating on the medical advised tools of face masks, distancing and a safe working environment; this is the only way forward to avoid more harm and more despair for South Africa. Adding a real effort to have enough testing material, hunting down infection hot spots and stopping to abuse the crisis for ideological driven agendas would bring this country back on track and create another new beginning. Covid-19 has shown us that we are all in for it – the virus does not discriminate, but has laid bare the woes of societies. It invites us to open a new chapter of understanding the world and each other and the connectivity between all living. Humility should be the answer, not ideology, common sense, not politics. We can come stronger out of this crisis if we as a society learn the lessons given to us, but for this to happen, we have to get our acts together in a transparent and honest way.  It is up to us to chose wisely – our leaders, our path and our destiny.

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

The Art of saying nothing and a half-hearted apology

After a long silence the President of South Africa appeared on television again to speak to his “fellow South Africans”.

Frustration and distrust are running high in this country when it comes to governmental decisions, the micro-managing of many aspects of daily life not related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the brutality of law enforcement, the threat to shut down essential feeding schemes and the killing of millions of jobs through partly meaningless lockdown demands warranted his appearance.

Unfortunately he did not spell out any real and substantial promise, but kept for a most of the time a very general narrative, promising for some parts of the country another easing of lockdown to level 3 but at the same time indicated pockets to remain on level 4. Which one gets which blessing should be determined by infection numbers and other projective models, but again he failed to take the nation into confidence what models, who are the advisors and what is the rationale behind distinguishing between a T-shirt, being allowed to sell or not to sell, or the threat posed by flip-flops being sold. It would be indeed interesting to hear who the experts in those cases are.

While confirming, that the lockdown was done to enable the government to beef up the ability to handle higher numbers of Covid-10 patients and the fact, that even lockdown does not stop the virus, he somehow contradictory stated the continuation of the lockdown and the easing to be determined by the various people sitting on the ominous and non constitutionally sound Covid-19 command council.

His mentioned several times, that the only objective of government is to save lives and that all South Africans are together in it. He failed to explain, why BEE related conditions for assistance in the tourism sector divides the nation into those entitled and those without government help. He also failed to explain why a new economy and radical economic transition is on top of the agenda in crisis times instead of saving jobs and containing the virus. The lack of testing equipment, the comparison of South Africa only with those states doing awful in their Corona response to paint a picture serving his narrative was also not convincing.

The half-hearted apology at the end for making mistakes was going into the right direction, but could have been more forceful and accompanied by sustained information instead of lots of warm air and seemingly nice words to calm down a clear wave of frustration by “our people”, as the people of South Africa so happily be called by politicians.

What do we know after his talk?
We know that the country will be divided by the Covid-19 council into those parts moving forward and those being left behind when it comes to changing levels – and the fear is, that the determination of this will be done by projections only calculated in secret. The distrust and frustration will further rise and hurt even more the already damaged fabric of society. The politicisation of health issues or the assumption of such will bring more unnecessary pain to the people. It is widely expected that those parts of the country which have the best testing and reporting capacity will be punished for doing so as they are also conveniently being ruled by the opposition party.

And again, it will be the collective making decisions – and obviously nobody can be held responsible for those decisions – which is – for those in charge – very convenient. As it was convenient for the President to highlight and to thank the people of South Africa for the adherence regarding the lockdown regulation – either not knowing or willing ignoring that in most townships the physical distancing remains an impossibility – but to say this would not fit the narrative needed to stand in front of the nation.

So, after his speech – South Africans still don’t know what to expect as – as always – all substantial information will be communicated by those again, whose fight against alcohol, cigarettes, and summer t-shirts are so well known by now within the nation. A President, who leads, looks and speaks different.

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

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