God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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

What must fall – fees or the South African State?

Whole universities are pitted against one another – the “Wits option” vs the “UCT option”. Some academics are accused of being blindly supportive of “the innocent students” and parading their colours as the immaculate left; while others are seen as blindly securocrat, unreconstructed racists, or terminally bewildered.

So let’s (try to) agree on a modicum of common ground. Remarkably, there is a lot of it about. No-one can reasonably argue that universities are not underfunded. No-one can reasonably argue that the impact of underfunding has been transferred to fee increases, and that in turn, black (primarily African and coloured) students bear the burden. Given the failure of the post-apartheid economy to sufficiently redistribute wealth and the abject failure of trickle-down economics, “black debt” is a reality.

Let’s also accept that for many students, much of the academy is an alienating, overwhelmingly white, Eurocentric space and experience. Students arrive and are expected to meet imported norms, seminar room sarcasm, unknown customs, foreign authors, hard marking and plain hard slog of tertiary education, while being young and going through their own life transitions, and doing so in “othered” spaces, out of vernacular, and so on.

Let us also agree that virtually no university or further education college has genuinely grappled (institutionally, not at the level of the individual) with what it means to decolonise, beyond (at best) looking around quickly for some black/African authors. This is not true at school level, where many advances have been made – but these are islands in an ocean. Students swim in the ocean.

Let’s also accept the dangers of commodified knowledge and universities, and the fact that the system is slowly becoming a sausage machine for lawyers, accountants, MBAs and others deemed economically necessary for the economy. Those schools and faculties seen to add no “dollar value” are discriminated against locally and globally.

I say “let’s agree” because these issues have all been agreed to by both protesters and university management. There may be quibbles over the severity of this or that issue in this or that part of the sector, but the central issues are undisputed.

Divided we fall

So what divides us, and with such vehemence? For the immaculate left, it is ultimately a capitalist state that has no interest in the poor emerging from poverty; overlapping with black people in a society dominated by whiteliness; creating an unreconstructed racial capitalism that needs to be toppled. Students in this view lack agency, and are in every context victims of external forces. Every action is the response of victim to oppressor.

“Senior management” is seen to lead with security, follow up with more security, and have no interest in negotiation or compromise. Students just want a free, decolonised education in a transformed institution and are shot for daring to ask for it – and they remain innocent, brutalised “black bodies”.

For those who are not in this group, there is a basic commitment to teach, and to getting students to complete the academic year. They are disregarded as “liberals”, the ultimate South African insult. Security is regarded as a necessary evil – but since many academics have personally been assaulted and/or abused and/or disrupted, and many targeted for hiding students desperate to learn and/or shielding them from protesters, security seems a basic necessity. The pleas from students for support to finish the year have been incessant.

Returning to class

What is at fault with all these views is the assumption that if protesters win enough compromises – such as sector-wide agreement on free, quality, decolonised education and the need to plan, design and cost it so that it can be an implementable reality not a slogan (being self-evidently not swiftly realised) – they will return to class. And they will do so as victors. We know that the vast majority of non-protesters also want to be back in class – and a great many are there already. But this core assumption is wrong.

Students use shields belonging to private security during clashes with police at Wits University. Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

It is increasingly difficult to retreat from the notion that this is an incipient insurrection. While some protesters are undoubtedly idealistic and brave fighters for free quality education, the movement of 2015 has been colonised by political parties and anarchist movements in 2016. A movement without prominent leaders of 2015 has become leaderless in 2016.

Acts of bravery and camaraderie in 2015 have become acts of racist abuse and thuggish violence in 2016. Burning has replaced marching; destruction of university infrastructure is a key goal. This is no longer #FeesMustFall as we knew it – it has become #StateMustFall.

Universities are being used for testing the potential for broader insurrection –- if you can bring down universities you can bring down cities, if you can bring down cities, you can collapse and take control of the state. No compromise will get the core protesters back into class, or satisfy their academic or political mentors, because their goal is so much larger: state capture. It has allegedly been done once under democracy, so why not again?

Who is to blame?

Politics hates a vacuum, more than nature. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) is morally compromised on every front. Seemingly all courts in the land are packed with lawyers attempting to stop good governance and allow uninterrupted bingeing at the trough. The brazen moves to cover various political derrieres are breathtaking – but create space for any other party to claim the moral high ground.

In 1976 during the Soweto youth uprising, protesting students were given political education by mainly the Black Consciousness Movement. Those students went into exile got their education from the liberation movement organisations, the ANC and the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC). Whether they were Africanist – closer to the PAC – or Charterist – aligned with the ANC – they were taught about the democratic state that had to be built and the principles on which it was to be built. Who now provides political education for protesting students?

The ANC is utterly compromised and cannot claim the moral authority to “lead”. The Democratic Alliance and ANC student wings, DASO and Sasco respectively, were loud in proclaiming their various Student Representative Council victories earlier in the year but have vanished from the scene. The prominence of Economic Freedom Fighters leaders – at national and student level – may or may not be relevant. So too the various incarnations of Black First Land First, pan-Africanist student movements and others. We are reduced to using student leaders of the 1980s as mediators, still on the faulty assumption that protesters want to return to class. They don’t. They are far more ambitious than that.

We have to call the bluff of those who keep moving the goalposts. Universities have agreed to free, quality, decolonised education in a transformed institution. Exam dates have been changed. Exam content is being modified to accommodate lost classes. But then the demands shift – we want this fully legislated now, or we won’t return to class. Or, we want amnesty for students suspended after due process regardless of what they did. Or, we want students arrested by police released. And so on and so on. These are patently not demands that the academy has the legal mandate to meet, even if we assume it had the will so to do.

If we do not call this for what it is, we face the danger of realising apartheid architect Hendrik Verwoerd’s dream – the man who advised us:

There is no place for [the Bantu] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour … What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice? That is quite absurd.

If, as seems likely, for the second year in a row, university students in South Africa are going to complete only part of their annual curriculum, and will be examined on only part of their curriculum, the result is that every subsequent year is divided between “catching up” on what was missed and squeezing a year of teaching into less time – we face the danger of ensuring that no student will receive even a quality colonised education (an oxymoron for some, of course). We are not educating our students to compete locally or globally. We are crippling them. They are being sacrificed for the few who see state capture as tantalisingly close.

Disclosure statement: David Everatt does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

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

Observations on the racism question

Much is spoken and written about racism in South Africa and I don’t want to repeat all the wise or not so wise words put into the public domain. So just some observations and questions from my side concerning South Africa:

I notice that the racist card is used politically to destroy and harm the political competitor and to badmouth people. I also notice that the pure motion #ZumaMustFall is suddenly a question of race even if this is clearly a sole question of political leadership. Zuma can be white, black, pink or green – a perceived corrupt and incompetent politician remains the same independent of skin color.  The notion of the ANCYL to put even the #FeesMustFall on a racist note shows even more the absurdity of using the racist card as most students protesting are indeed black students. On a positive note it shows clearly the emptiness in this case of political motivated talk.
Without a proper definition of “racism” and a proper use of the word this debate is only emotional but not substantial. In the light of a disaster scenario in the education sector of South Africa one can obviously not expect this real debate to happen.

I have asked myself what it means for a country when the tweet of an unknown and not socially relevant person like Sparrow can bring up the worst emotions in a whole nation. Does it not indicate the brokenness of a wounded society yearning for healing. And does such a society not need healing instead of stirring the pot, does it not need wise leadership instead of corruption as a principle of government?

I also have questions about BEE – does it really serve the majority of previous disadvantaged in the country? Seeing the education system almost in shatters – is it not that only proper education brings equality and not putting people in places where they either can enrich themselves or they are simply not competent enough to fulfill a job? BEE can turn easily into discrimination, into feelings of entitlement and the loss of needed capacity and skills. It sounds nice to preach about revolution – but the kids of the revolution are always future victims, look into history.

Our president plays the race card as well, stating that he is attacked because he is black and uneducated – and let’s be honest: it needs skills to guide a nation of wounded ones, it needs special skills to know about the economics and to be a politician of statue in our world so globally interlinked. But this is not at all a question of skin color.
I also note with concern that the opposition party of the DA is now starting to run with the racist card, announcing to look for more black skin color to fill the upper ranks.  Not to forget the EFF claiming the whites stole the land without recognizing that history is much more complicated and that before the white and black man there where the Koi and San people living here. Life and history is always grey – and the debate about racism, about history, about who we are, where we are at in this moment in time and where we want to be demands honesty from all sides.

Maybe it is wishful thinking but I hope and pray that South Africa finds its way back to a sort of rainbow nation as dreamed by Nelson Mandela, because seeing the state of affair in the moment, his scenario is by far the better one than what we have in the moment. But to achieve this we need honest, non-corrupt, dedicated, service orientated leaders and the skin color should not matter at all. And we need the majority of the society educated and willing to grasp anew the dream of a new South Africa.

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

Living in South Africa is not easy…!?

I am generally an optimist but even I have to concede that living in South Africa is not easy in our days. Too many negatives are troubling the concerned citizen in the times of election mood.  I stopped counting how many children have been raped and killed in the last weeks, especially in the Western Cape but also all over South Africa. It seems that even innocent children’s eyes are not protecting them from the senseless violence and the urge for sexual exploitation – and the rapists are coming of all age groups. It is frightening.
Violent toi-tois and strikes are daily news and the president has to tell a ‘good story’ in parliament – all politicians I listen to are seemingly disconnected with the realities on the ground only using what is needed to bolster their arguments. DA and ANC have the problem that there is indeed a problem with their respective leadership. Zuma is so much seen as a failed president marred with corruption that all the cover up of the ANC structures show that the party is not always right and that party discipline can be a negative. The DA is battling the “white lady” fight and can’t win this fight in the South Africa of today – and it seems that their leadership is not wise enough to change and let this argument run into the emptiness of space.
While all the politics are ongoing so is also the war of gangsters in Manenberg and the Cape Flats, destroying the fabric of normal life in those areas. If kids are anxious not to be caught in cross fire when walking to school or church then there is something fundamentally wrong.
Of course there are enough stories on a personal and community level which are uplifting. If it would not for those stories, one could pack the bag and leave the country. I guess it has to be those stories to be told more often and with more enthusiasm to counter the crude reality of the newspapers and news headlines. And there are more and more of the living who have never experienced apartheid by themselves – so the old stories of blaming apartheid for everything and evoking the “old times” as if nothing has been changed since then will not work anymore. It is the younger generation which can bring hope to this country, but for that, they need a proper education, which most of them are deprived of in our days. They need jobs which give them the possibility to grow and to tackle their own future. Education, passing on life skills which matters for their lives is needed and then all “malemarism” will be gone in a minute. If you are educated you don’t fall for empty promises.
Despite all these moments of frustration and anger, I still believe that South Africa is one of the most beautiful spots on earth and that there are so many positive stories to tell as well. It is a country which had the ability to have a peaceful transition to a full-fledged democracy where every vote is counting. If all people of good will work together those who are spoiling the process of becoming the rainbow nation will not prevail. For that healing should be the focus of our society – because only a reconciled nation and healed people can make life in South Africa for everybody a pleasant and meaningful one. It will never be a really easy one, but it will be a beacon of hope and encouragement  for the rest of the continent. So yes, in the moment life is not easy in South Africa – but there is still hope at the end of the tunnel – let’s work together on reaching the end of this tunnel and seeing the light…

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

State of the Nation Address

Yesterday was the big day – the state of the nation address was delivered by President Jacob Zuma – a colorful event and full benches – everybody seems to have the urge to show off their importance and what’s best in the wardrobe at home. Tastes and styles are indeed different, but important was what the President had to say about the state of the nation.
Experiencing service delivery protests all over the country, being plagued by mining strikes, a free-falling rand at times, scandals like Gupta, Nakandla and so much more, one would have expected a speech facing the realities and encouraging the people and politicians to tackle these obstacles and showing light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe too much expectations.
What I heard was a summary of 20 years one party rule  – only striving on some of the issues without addressing them proper or offering any solution. The repeated promised for millions of jobs sounded empty – to bring the service delivery protests in connection with success of the ruling party, so that only those not attended to are protesting was somehow genius and unbelievable at the same time.
HIV was mentioned – the words “resistance” and “cracking health system” I didn’t hear nor did I hear about the plight of TB especially in the Western part of the country.
I asked myself how a president perceived to be corrupt can talk about rooting out corruption. I hoped to hear that word “Wingfield” and housing to acknowledge that since years the government stalls efforts to give national land away for housing projects of the province.
I must say, I was disappointed about the performance, contents and tone was at no time encouraging – it sounded like the German slogan “weiter so” – just continuation of the situation as is as there is anyhow nobody else who could take over.
The state of the nation address is about a government set into a democratic onset – I would have expected some words about the working of parliament, how democracy can be developed further and that stones in the hand of protesters are no valid arguments to avoid other parties toi-toi.
So according to the President the last 20 years period of time was a success story – which is in part true as the country has not encountered civil war or similar. But maybe it was not because of the government but despite the government. I acknowledge that governing in our world coming from a liberation and struggle background may be tough and mistakes are made. But why did I not hear any meaningful reflection on what might be wrong, why not admitting that there are challenges ahead we only can solve if all spheres of government and all political players, be it the ruling party or the opposition plays its role.
As a president it is his task to encourage people of the country to go for more democracy and to explain that violence is not a political argument.
Let’s face it: the country is in turmoil in the moment – also attributed to election time – and it feels there are more challenges than achievements. Even if this is just a feeling, it would have been nice to be addressed. I had the feeling that we saw a President who will have to struggle to survive the next 5 years in office. The coming time will be full of surprises, but there is no doubt that on the 7th of May the ANC will win again the majority.

Working in the fields of HIV and AIDS, which has had its success stories in the last years without doubt, we need an environment where those stories can succeed and new ones added. For that we need a stable country, less corruption also in the health sector and an end to service deliver protests which stops people from attending clinics and taking their life saving medications. We need proper housing outside wetlands to prevent TB and proper sanitation to avoid Cholera, Typhus and other diseases. So politics plays a vital role for the health of its citizen and for an NGO, the rule of law and a proper partnership with the state authorities based on mutual understanding and not just “like and dislike depending on party affiliation” is needed.

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

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenNovember 16th, 2019
28 days to go.

Ball of HOPE 2020

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 23rd, 2020
7 months to go.
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