God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Short sleeved t-shirts – as long as they are intended to be used to keep you warm

Madness pure – that is the only description possible following the actions, the South African Covid-19 Central Command – which is not the democratic elected government but an invented structure with lots of constitutional question marks – takes at times.

Yesterday two announcements made this clear again:

Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Trade and Industry published again guidelines what South African’s can buy or not buy. We have had in the last weeks discussions whether roasted chicken, sold in its warm form poses a health risk and the confusion about his directions caused a Woolworth store to not allow for the sale of underwear as they did not clearly fall under the category of “winter cloth”. Out of this sort of confusion South Africans get again and again updated versions of what they can buy or what are existential goods and what government does not allow selling at all. The question of selling alcohol or cigarettes being the prominent ones as they are forbidden under current legislation. Obviously the black markets, often connected to politics, is raving about such decisions and cashing in.

Yesterday, the new list of cloth to be sold was gazetted by Patel, who now determined, that short sleeved t-shirts are only to be sold, if they intend to be used to keep us warm – the official gazetted wording is:
short sleeved t-shirts, where promoted and displayed as under garments for warmth

The new rules apply immediately and are specific to Level 4,so the Minister in the Government Gazette,
It shows to which length national Ministers go to combat the virus.

But competition is not far in finding ways to combat Covid-19: Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, always in military camouflage and the Cuban flag on her beret to prove her socialist military approach to the pandemic said her department would be tightening the screws on organisations who distribute food to the needy. In her view it can’t be that those going hungry are receiving a warm meal from NGO’s or other charity organisations. As there is anyhow a tendency to allow only government (say: ANC) to provide for the needy, obviously the work of those non-profit organisations disturb the picture of only the ruling party provides for the poor and the sick. Plans are to allow for such food delivery for the starving population only with a permission given out by her department. Having in mind that her food parcel delivery plans are often marred by chaos, stealing and non-delivery, this approach amounts to  depriving people of food which translates in keeping people in their misery of hunger and despair.

While Patel’s list has almost a comical stroke and one could laugh it off the plans of Minister Zulu are endangering lives and the very fabric of society. Hungry people have nothing to lose any more and even the military, called to police people will not be able to stop a development bringing South Africa further down. For the sake of those who have nothing – the nonsense has to stop.

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

Billions of Rand promised…

Praises are sung again in many quarters of South Africa about the leadership of President Ramaphosa after his speech yesterday evening – twitter and social media repeat the billions of Rand promised: R500 billion strong economic and social support package with an increase in child support grants of R300 next month and R500 a month from June to October; all other grant beneficiaries will receive an additional R250 a month and to top it: a special coronavirus grant of R350 a month will go to those who are unemployed and do not receive any other form of grant or UIF payment. The Department for Social Development, UIF and SASSA are named to execute parts of this money blessings and the dawn of a new economy was promised after the hardship of lockdown- to be lifted
… gradually … to be announced on Thursday.

At the same time Ramaphosa authorised the employment of an additional 73180 members of SANDF to assist SAPS in keeping law and order – either an admission, that 2820 soldiers already employed are not enough to enforce the lockdown next to the usual law enforcement agencies or a promise for further painful measures to come.
Additional Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma floated the idea that the Western Province, Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal as the hotspots of Corona-19 could see a prolonged lockdown while other provinces are able to lift some restrictions earlier.
Accompanied is all this by the news that Eskom announces load shedding will resume after lockdown and news of SAA and the land bank standing before collapse.

Mixed messages, hope and realities – and certainly one reality is that all plans and all leadership needs people to execute them.
The blatant failure of SASSA, the national Ministry of Social Development and UIF to deliver so far on a much smaller scale of measurements; the absolute questionable performances of Ministers like Mbalula, Cele and so many more are not giving rise to the hope that the new economy will fly or reach the people in a way that uplifts and renews society.
Cadre deployment and corruption – past and ongoing – is once again the danger to bring down and hinder some of the plans we heard last night from the President.
Bringing in outside financial institutions to assist means that within the ANC those hard-liners lead by Ace Magashule must finally admit defeat and abandon their radical economic transformation plans.

I did not see a self-confident Ramaphosa last night, I rather had the impression that deep in his heart he knew that all the promises, all the billions of Rand hang at the end on being able to win the battle within the party but also the ability to execute on all levels of government – filtering down relief and good ideas without corruption and all the failures, administration is marred with at the moment.

The level of hunger and despair of the people in South Africa, acknowledged by the President last night and the current inability to deliver adequate help and assistance has to be mitigated at short notice to avoid a failure of all the plans we heard last night.
Words must translate in deeds the people feel, promised Rands must translate in filled stomachs, stimulus packages must hit the nail for those at the many margins of society soon and lockdown must end soon in a feasible manner for all South Africans, otherwise the fifth address of the President will go down in history as another pie in the sky.

 

 

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

Prayers with hands and feet?

I am not sure I see the whole picture or maybe most is hidden in broad daylight, but entertaining Facebook, Twitter and other social media I simply fail to see much activity of local churches here in South Africa in the times of need.
Yes, I see streamed services and appeals to pray the rosary, links to the Holy Father and his impressive messages of hope – all good, but I somehow miss in the times of CAN and neighbourhood initiatives here in South Africa the strong practical voices of the church.
I miss a stronger voice of churches being an essential service in practical ways, organizing and streamlining their response to the hunger of the people, to the empty stomachs and the despair in being often confined in questionable human conditions.

Maybe I don’t look at the right places, maybe social media is not a mirror of reality, maybe churches are too humble to advertise their concerted efforts of a structured approach to the life crisis, COVID-19 is bringing to the people.
Praying with your hands and feet is part of a theology, I have favoured throughout life and especially in times like these we should see strong leadership and courage trumping those at times no-sense making rules imposed on us. And as digital media and internet in the times of distancing is an important way of communication, I would wish for more traces of a Catholic or Christian response which sees itself as an essential service in so many ways.
We can’t expect higher powers to do so – in times of crisis necessary actions are not made by proclamation but by giving belief and conviction a pair of practical hands.

As said, maybe I look at the wrong places to witness all the action done under the radar – if so, then this post should encourage everybody to come into the open – to give witness of compassion and empathy not only with holy words but also with holy – whole making in the real sense of the word –  deeds here and now.  This unprecedented crisis is a ‘kairos” – a defining moment yearning for well organized action with and between churches and faith based organisations.

As said, maybe I don’t see the whole picture, and then forgive me for shouting out,
maybe I ask too much when looking at own fears and limitations, also that would be human,
but the nagging question remains:
Where are the churches visible in this crisis as a place of structured and systematic response?

 

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, chaplain, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

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