God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

The SA time bomb of 46.3%

“According to Stats SA, the unemployment rate as per the expanded definition of unemployment increased by 0.6 of a percentage points to 43.2% in the first quarter of 2021. The official unemployment rate among youth aged 15 to 34 was 46.3% in first quarter of the year”, so the City Press on 14th of June 2021.

This is a result of an education system failing since years the learners and students and creating applicants not fit for the job market. Add a BEE system which is open to abuse by those enriching themselves anyhow while not really assisting those in the mainstream, then you have the toxic mix which was amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It becomes a sense of urgency to tackle this; especially after the recent riots have shown how quick violence and looting can become the order of the day while the state is not capable to protect its citizen or even has at times and in parts not the willingness to do so.

It also does not help to sugar coat the current situation in a country, where more people live on state sponsored grants then are in employment and the portion of substantial taxpayers is rather shrinking.

But there is also no reason to call it a doomsday and put the heads in the sand. The solution is to tackle it head’s on – leaving behind the political Sunday sermons and the put-up-to-failure ideology of parts of this nation’s ruling party. It entails to seriously engage in give and take between government, industry and the NGO sector, focusing solely on the task ahead and not the feathers to win or the political vision prone to override common sense. It also entails to have a sharp look at the educational sector, cut down on union’s power in this sector and put money into the uplifting of teachers and other educational staff.

Nothing is lost, but the clock is ticking; we already lost one born free generation to the inability to master the task – it is questionable whether society will allow that another generation will be sacrificed by political ideology and cadre deployment which translates in incompetence on levels which matter.

South Africa had always shown the ability to stand on the edge of the abyss and not to jump but to turn around and make it to safety. I am convinced this is also possible in current times. The amount of goodwill and preparedness to work together and to create positive synergies is palpable. Leadership is needed to harvest these synergies and to create a situation of excellence in the education sector and in the job market for our young and aspiring people.

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

Unemployment, murder, rape and teenage pregnancy

Photo by Klimkin/Creative Commons

Whoever tries to sugarcoat the situation in South Africa had to be heavy at work in the last days. Figures released by various institutions showed the decay of the South African society on so many levels.

The official unemployment rate is 32.6%, the expanded unemployment rate is 46.3% in the first quarter of 2021. More than 18 million people living constantly on a government grant – the tax base is shrinking constantly because of immigration and the inability of government to tax the informal sector and some other industries in the appropriate way.

Crime statistics for the first quarter of the year record 5701 people being murdered – a figure which paints a grim picture of violence in this country. Rape is also up; alone in Gauteng, 9 518 rape cases in three months were recorded. And this is only the reported figures.

Teenage pregnancies are up, and the published report shows around 1000 of such reported pregnancies of girls in the age group between 10 – 14 years within a year.

There is no real leadership in the country – the avoidance tactics of President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Zondo Commission to account for failures; his insistence of the necessity and normality of cadre deployment which was demonstrated again in appointing tainted Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqabule as the speaker of the House gives little hope that this might change in the near future.

The education system in the country produces many matriculants without any proper general knowledge, the output of the education system often produces alumni who are not employable. The BEE system serves not really a purpose in the current form and shape.

The list of woes is certainly longer – and one could fall into deep despair looking at the shape and prospect of South Africa. I guess the only way out is to be honest and clear about the situation, raising respectfully but forcefully the realities, and to start in earnest to tackle the problems by concentrating on two two essential pillars of every society: health and education. And when I talk about health, I also mean the mental health of a society.

Giving up on 58 million people only because of government failure is not in option. Civil society has to take the lead, NGO’s have to come much more to the table and synergies have to be created between those existing capable and willing government officials and those within civil society joining hands and hearts to get it right.

There will be no fix in short time – it is a long and thorny way. But if we don’t start now, the next generation will once again be defrauded of all the opportunities needed for a healthy, prosper society.

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

The vaccine confusion

AstraZeneca vaccine stopped – so the headlines around the world when South Africa decided to re-think the use of the vaccine it bought for a higher price without checking the expiry date – and one could think this is a typical story – or another example of the incompetence of South Africa’s national government. That may be the case, but I guess, in this time and situation government bashing should not be first priority but to look a bit deeper into this headline creating event.

The first batch of vaccines in South Africa was designated to be used for the health worker at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic; and obviously the aim is to protect those doctors, nurses and health workers against the virus. It was known that the AstraZeneca vaccine was not a 100% protection, but a small and not peer-to-peer reviewed study, which in itself poses more questions than answers was cited as the reason to stop the vaccination drive before it started.
And here the first critical thought has to be mentioned:
This discussion is way above the heads of the general population. The South African government, in its drive to be as transparent as possible, decided to bring into the public a level of medical research discourse which created more confusion than it helped to motivate people to make an informed decision on wanting to be vaccinated. It also laid bare the underlying belief of many, that a vaccine is either the miracle cure or not helping at all.
In reality, we are far from understanding the virus and the potential of vaccinations in this case. Questions about how long the vaccine will work, what possible boosters are needed, how mutations will change the course of strategy and whether vaccinated people can still be infected or pass on the virus are questions in transition of answers. Combinations of vaccines would be another question which warrants an answer.

The advent of highly expert driven expert discussions in the public and political domain is creating more havoc and uncertainty then intended by those allowing for it. And looking through publications and mini studies and opinion pieces one can’t stop thinking that some so-called or self-identified experts have their own popularity as priority number one on their agenda. Also here social media are at parts more a curse than a blessing, when it comes to relay information which are factual correct and done in a way which enlighten ordinary people.

The additional problem in South Africa is that even those, who vote for the governing party not necessarily trust anybody in government, knowing what they know via the Zondo Commission. Too much lies, too much deception, to many people in charge just looking for their own advantage and having their own hidden agendas.

As it stands at the moment, no decision is taken what happens to the amount of expensive vaccines waiting in the cold storerooms of South Africa. It would be a pity if they would be given back or expire- as they still prevent severe illness and death for those being vaccinated with them.

Generally speaking we have to learn to appreciate what medical advances can do – and to understand that all are building blocks to prevent the pandemic from raging on – none is currently the golden bullet which stops the virus in the track. And there is something else to learn: that health experts should only cover parts of the political decision-making process in pandemic times for complex societies. There is more to balance and if one part is dominant, it will derail the process of taking with them the people governed.

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

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, , , , , , , , , ,

The danger of being authoritarian

Whoever watched yesterdays press conference in South Africa, where ministers outlined the response and rules of engagement during the 21 day lock-down might have now second thoughts about the events unfolding. After two presidential speeches from Cyril Ramaphosa, who succeeded in bringing across a coherent and logical response to the Covid-19 challenge, most ministers did not really show the same amount of compassion and sense for realities.

Remarkably some minister clearly showed signs of enjoyment being in charge and feeling in charge. Incoherent information unfortunately did not improve the situation either.
Keeping people apart can be done in different ways – and South Africa choose the method of lock – down. This in itself is not wrong – a tool of virus confinement used also by other nations. The example of Jordan comes to mind when looking how far and how restrictive measurements can be before people will start to rally against them. There is a fine balance between getting it right and going too far.

In a country like South Africa a buy-in of the population is a necessity to get the answer to the Coronavirus right. Understaffed police and military will not be able to control the masses if there is no goodwill amongst those being governed. Townships are not easy to control and the 21 days without income for so many is hardship not easy to endure if you have a family.

It has to be seen how things develop after midnight – the last 24 hours have been clearly an example how far away some political officials are from real life experience. It was also clear to see how split the ANC is between those understanding democracy and the care for those governed and those rather interested in the ideology of a party and power play. South Africa’s lock-down can be the salvation in the pandemic, but only if there is a clear balance between what is really needed to stop the spread of the virus and what is over-reacting for reasons far beyond necessity.

Democracies – especially in the times of such challenges – are in danger of losing out the freedoms they are supposed to guard and guaranteed. The feeling of citizens of being at the mercy of a pandemic can become a breeding ground for those politicians who have not captured and internalised the values of democracy. It is a temptation – and one has to watch out especially in a country without a long track record of this form of government.

 

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

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