God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

The “impossibility of planing” trauma

It is Saturday, 15.08.2020 – and the since 5 months running state of emergency will come to an end today, if and when – yes, if and when government not will quickly expand it into another month.
Every normal functioning government would be able to declare their intent before the expiry date to avoid confusion and create a vibe of knowing what they are doing – not so in South Africa.

Here deadlines are relative and national government seems to be deciding at will in the last hour – or even later: I recall that the Ministry of Basic Education decided on School opening to be happening at 8 am only on the very day at 11 am. Or our president telling a whole industry to be shut down in 3 hours, having allowed it to open up a couple of days before. On – off like an authoritarian ruler guided either by Chinese influence or yielding to pressure from the opposition in the own party.

So South Africans, besides being in limbo for 5 months with changing lockdown levels, added now to the mix the so-called load shedding levels (which is a nice word for not having enough electricity even the economy is severely down in production and demand) endure since months the impossibility to plan – which I would call an immense trauma. Humans need to be able to have a lifeline of hopes and planing security, families need to know what happens school wise with their children (I have stopped counting the numbers of plans announced, changed and skipped) and business people need to be able to plan for the rest of the year ahead.
While in most of the world governments try to establish a clear way of communication (except Boris Johnson and Donald Trump) with society and has clear methods of communication, in South Africa every minister seems to have his or her own way of expressing what the next steps will be, might be, could be and obviously the ominous National Covid-10 Command Council is in its top secret meetings the owner of the crystal ball deciding the fate of 58 Million people as they wish and when they wish so.

It is simply unacceptable but shows the incline into authoritarian rule which seems to be a BRICS attitude with China, Russia and Brazil in top exemplary positions for South Africa.
South Africa does not only deserve better – it does create an unnecessary uncertainty and unsurenesss which is after 5 months of a traumatic nature.  Add to this the question of ongoing stealing from the people during this crisis done or allowed by the same people running the country, the millions of people now without income and unemployment adding to the already 30% unemployment statistics and you come close to the desperation cutting deep into the emotions of a society still in need of healing from the past.

If the amount of service deliver protests, illegal land invasion paired with explosion of senseless violence and destruction is an indication, then we are in for a rough time. The silence of any national moral or ethical leadership, the silence of church leaders beyond some statements, the despair of grassroots community leaders trying to keep sanity adds to this era of unnecessary trauma and also gives witness to it.

South Africa has always shown that it is able to “maak ‘n plan”, basically to make a plan – and it would help immensely when our national government exchange the erratic behaviour for a transparent process with appropriate communication. The mood in the country is changing and unfortunately it seems that the gap between those in Pretoria and society as such is meanwhile so big, that it takes time for the ruling party to understand and react appropriately. People already in distress need to know that government cares – it is time for the comrades to wake up and give the people what they need: ethical leadership and transparent planing possibilities as well as the healing they deserve and yearn for since 1994.  A crisis is always a chance – to be used for a better future for all and not for the nightmare of serving an ideology.

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

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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