God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Create HOPE in the World

Rotary International revealed last week the motto for the Rotary Year 2023/2024.
Reflecting on this motto at the beginning of the new calendar year, indeed hope is needed. Looking around into the world in January 2023 one could be frightened.

The constant attacks of Russia trying to bring a neighboring country down by sheer bombing terror towards infrastructure and non-military aims has shown no letting down on ferocity.

Brazil and the USA, followed by Hungary and now Israel continue to show how democracy can be eroded on a continuous base, and it seems that a major part of the respective population supports the move into more anarchy and oligarchy.

China’s COVID-19 politics has shown how dictatorial states irrationally govern and at the end are bringing more suffering to the people solely through nonsensical decisions filtering down from top to bottom without being questioned.

And in the country I live, the blackouts give witness to the ongoing incompetence and corruption of the nationally governing parties; failing their very own people in basic matters.

So yeah, hope is needed, and fascinating is, that Rotary does not want to give hope, but indeed create hope. This sounds like a very active approach, and an approach which is the only way to go against the wave of hopelessness and despair, people experiencing on a daily basis.

And this despair brings lots of people to turn towards populists and conspiracy theories. Being told that there is only “black and white” and one is given a clear path to walk is often perceived as the most easy way to escape the amount of challenges the world is facing.

Creating hope means now to actively go against populism and all the other woes of modern society. It means to be on the ground and to work with the people concerned by developing alternatives, by voicing reason publicly and by simple leading and living by example.

For me, as the chairperson of HOPE Cape Town Trust, the new motto is also an encouragement to do more in this regard. It seems to me one of the best wishes for 2023. Not only because it is so desperately needed. But also because I know that millions of Rotarians around the world can make a difference, joining forces with all the NGO’s and civil society institutions already hart at work.

We need a coalition of the willing, a term we know from the Iraq war, but now meant in a very positive way of goodwill and enthusiasm. We need people who put their ideologies aside and first and foremost see the person and his/her needs. And we need people who understand human rights, human dignity and the portion of freedom and self-determination to be afforded to everybody.

Looking at the challenges the world is facing, creating hope means a hands-on approach. It means practicality at work and a mixture of grass-roots approach and policies giving reason and direction.

With this motto Rotary has set a scene giving hope – now lets see how the creation of this hope looks like in real life. As a Rotarian myself I am thrilled to be part of this creation.

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

Hope amidst failure

There was always the question of what comes first for the President of the ruling party: the ANC or the country?

I guess the last days have shown what it means when party politics comes to the forefront and the country comes second. It was not a social question which triggered the looting and destruction, but the fight within the ANC for direction and power. South Africa became the playground for party politics.

Knowingly, the members of the NEC, mostly tainted themselves by corruption and their likes, waited for too long to act against those, who are clearly and without shame, abused their position for personal gain and power. The “system ANC” did seemingly not allow practical self-reflection and the walk on eggshells when it came to resistance of Zuma, family and friends after the constitutional court judgement made it clear, that not everybody is equal before the law. The unwillingness to handle the situation encouraged those supporting the previous President to even go a step further.
The inability and incompetence of the ruling party and the state has shown when the real looting started was mind-boggling. State security and related ministers showed a clear inability to reign in; video clips on the internet even showed those responsible for security on the ground being part of the looting and citizens realised that if somebody is throwing a burning match into a society marred by poverty and unemployment, there will be a major fire, and you are alone to fight it. Another trauma for the ordinary South African on top of all the others still to be treated and to be healed.

But there is also to report a reaction after looting. People came together to protect their areas, they lent police a hand to be able to stand up against looters, and they started cleaning together: pictures warming the hearts and minds of all of us looking for healing, stability and a non-racist society building instead of destruction. The wave of support for those left without anything and whose business was looted and destroyed shows that there is hope amidst failure, that civil society can rescue and build up, creating a future for all.

South Africa can’t wait until the ruling party gets it right and those really interested in the upliftment of the country are getting the upper hand within the party.

To wait would mean to deny a whole generation the future it deserves; it would prolong the suffering of millions living from government handouts, it would not allow for the educational system to improve and the job market to rise to the challenge of job creation.

South Africa needs in these trying times friends who are not only at its side but also honest in the way they talk, it needs partners who are not shy to speak up and to speak out with compassion and clarity.

South Africa also needs time to reflect where it stands in its build up of democracy and how democracy can work in this part of the world. It needs a real South African way to allow for participation and plurality, so that diversity will be a strength and not a weakness.

And it needs a renewed ANC, leaving behind or better incorporate the past with honesty and striving to be a more open political party having the guts to stop cadre deployment and the delusion that without them, South Africa has no future. Everything has its time, nothing lasts for ever; and every achievement is one day history fading away while new challenges are coming up.

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

Easter means hope

It was amazing to see how many people cheered President Ramaphosa after his last speech where he prolonged the lockdown for South Africa another 2 weeks till the end of April. It seems that the fear of people overwrites all common sense; the question whether lives to be rescued or economy was in the aftermath highlighted as the all decisive question. And obviously for most people the answer was clear cut out: Ramaphosa was choosing life above economical matters.
I don’t share this clear cut assessment: It is not about life or economy – it is about how people survive in a decent and human way after the crisis is fading away. There is no escape from the virus and let’s be honest: the daily figures are relative in South Africa – we test too little and our statistics are at best an indication of direction, the virus takes us. Killing the livelihood of people while battling the virus does not fulfil the aim of the current strategy. The virus will linger on – there is no final defeat and this should be clearly communicated. This virus will live with us and as with all those small little creatures, we have to live and constantly battle it. It’s part of evolution – and we are part of evolution. Human mankind is not the master of evolution.

There must be a balance in a country which suffers already from high unemployment, corruption, failed economical strategies, poverty and a clear disconnect between those ruling and those being ruled. The despair of people in the townships, their inability to keep distance because of population density, the time wise heavy-handed enforcement efforts by police and military speaks volume about all the question marks currently entertained by worried citizens.
It is indeed clear that the virus demands caution, physical distancing, covering mouth and nose and other behavioural adjustments. But with all this must go a realistic hope and a sustained way to keep society economically viable and alive. People must see an exit strategy of a lockdown which is quite unique with its stringent measures here in South Africa. Being told what is essential or not to buy, being – depending on how your living conditions are – deprived of exercise and fresh air, walking your dog, smoking a cigarette (because you are out of stock at home) and all the rest can go only as far as people are willing – out of fear or conviction – to adhere to.
In Europe there are first data showing that people start to question restrictions and politically there is clear talk about how to have an exit strategy for a new reality after Covid-19. An exit strategy means hope – and hope is needed in times of despair. The feast of Easter encourages hope, it tells of a light at the end of the tunnel, it talks about life giving and life saving stories billions of people have used since this man from Nazareth lived and died to keep the flame of hope alive in personal life, but also within the fabric of societies.

Hope always speaks of courage – a courage born out of the promise that life has a meaning and that every life is important and can contribute to the well-being of this world. This hope of Easter overcomes fear and anxiety and leads to new life, a new reality not only after death, but already here and now. This hope must therefore also have consequences how we deal with this crisis.

May this easterly hope guide us through this challenging time and support a way bringing balanced solutions on our way into a so-called new reality after Corona.

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

in between travels

Traveling between Europe and South Africa sees in the moment a clear competition: which country has the most outrages politicians, the most stupid public debates avoiding the real question of long term sustainability of our societies and environments. Adding the big brother from the US sometimes one even does not know how to close ears and eyes from all the thunder of underdeveloped ideas. Add some blue haired so called influencer and the panopticum of political and social surrealism matches Salvador Dali’s paintings or even goes further.

What is it that people are losing their minds and running either behind a single messiah with short term memory or flocking behind the easy black/white solutions which never will solve any of our complex problems. Or, like we see more and more in South Africa, use violence and intimidation to get what one wants and just now without delay.
My guess is still that the anxiety over an overwhelming digital and digital connected world makes people being so afraid that they even intelligence don’t stop the degradation into instincts learned as we still walks as Neanderthals this earth.  We are in the mental stone-age of the digital revolution – and we behave like it on almost all levels of societies – it’s like a pandemic running its course and nobody really notices and if, one looks at it like the rabbit in front of the snake: don’t move – freeze!

The sacredness of life, the beauty of living this earth, the diversity of nature, the freedoms so many people fought and died for – all those are becoming victims of this point in time.  And churches, so much busy with themselves and their own history of failings trying to maintain a bit of moral order are not realizing that the real questions have moved so much further from the question what happens in the bedrooms of people.

Well, this weekend we are celebrating Pentecost – we celebrate the good Spirit of everything living and existing on this earth, in this universe – and maybe looking at the scale this compares to the aforesaid problems might enable us to put things again into perspective. This Spirit has three virtues: faith, hope and love – and maybe bringing them to the forefront again there might be a way out of our seemingly endless circles of short and inadequate answers – hope, faith and love are long-living – they are channels to life and to freedom we urgently need to rediscover.

Filed under: Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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