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, , , , , , , , , , ,

Truth, facts and lies

Living together as society means compromising on the way, we want to live together; it means tolerance towards the life design of my neighbour and to acknowledge the boundaries of what is still acceptable and what not.

For this to happen and for society to function we need to agree on some facts or truth, which build the base of every exploration of boundaries and limitations, freedoms and expectations.

The advent of social media and global connectivity via the internet has given rise to an ugly side of these advances which we call fake news, conspiracy theories or simply lies. This has brought us as societies, but also as human mankind in a danger zone.

For example Donald Trump lies regarding election results jeopardizes the US democracy with consequences for other countries and their safety and well-being. His lies and fake news about climate change has serious consequences for Mother Earth and the future of human mankind. His denial towards Covid-19 costs thousands of human beings their lives.

The denial of truth and the ignorance towards facts is not only in the political arena dangerous, also other organisations weaken themselves because of it. Look at the Catholic Church and its dealing with the topic “abuse”. Not acknowledging the facts brings besides pain and hurt also disrepute and a silent withdraw from many, looking for a new home for their belief system or drifting into the fake news corner and hoping that denying facts and changing the narrative rescues somehow their faith. We see this in so many instances in the USA even much broader than only in the cases of abuse or only the Catholic Church, looking at the Evangelical churches and major parts of the Catholic Church where meanwhile ideology, focusing on one aspect while actively ignoring or fighting all other not so convenient parts of reality trump (in the real sense of the word with a big T) religion and transform it into a blindly followed ideology.

Obviously fake news, lies, blind ideology have a shelf life, which is definitely prolonged by the use or better abuse of social media, the bitter flip side of something which was aimed to connect people and ended up to divide them in ways we never thought we will see. Do you recall the enthusiasm of entering a new millennium, the dream of a global village, the possibility to communicate and foster peace and dignity around the globe and the belief, that digital communication will bring all the positive goodies to the world we live in?

We are doing a detour now regarding truth and common grounds – and maybe as human mankind we are allowed to do so. But I would argue that the silent majority has now seen enough to determine the dead end and the destruction caused. Now is the time to stand up for the truth, for valid discernment and reasoning and I believe that especially religion – and religion does not mean necessarily church institutions – has a major role to play: the tradition of mystics (think Karl Rahner) and Global ethics (think Hans Kueng) and yes, the encyclicals and universal writings of Pope Francis are waiting to be more – or again – discovered and put into practice.

At the end truth will prevail – the costs to get there – that is the only thing we can determine as human beings and influence as part of societies.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In Anticipation

The disconnect between national government and the South African society is palpable at the moment – and South Africans are in high anticipation of rumours becoming reality that the President will announce the easing of restrictions this week.
So far nothing has happened and given the track record of delaying tactics it is to be expected that it will only be at the weekend, when he will proclaim the news to be changed anyhow before being implemented days later. It is always the same game and mirrors the split in the ruling party, the politics playing out behind the curtain and the extent, crisis is used to change the economic narrative with predictable catastrophic outcomes if realised.
Therefore, time is of essence in South Africa to stop the complete economic meltdown and a so-called 2nd wave which is already happening in unemployment, despair and trauma.
Covid-19 has again shown how complex South Africa can be:
the lockdown, which was only partly adhered to in the townships due to existing conditions, the predictions of infection and death rate which were way over realities materializing, the almost unbridgeable gap between those in power continuing to follow an ANC system of past struggle times complemented with shameless corruption and stealing from the people. Add the revelations of the Zondo commission on a daily base nailing the fact that those in power either willingly participated or witnessed and did nothing to stop the looting under the Zuma government. All the ills of South Africa are lying bare to see for those who want to see it.
And therefore the anticipation of some easing of lockdown is an indication of the pressure building up – people have enough from irrational rules, outright stupid arguments to bolster ideology and power play, so much trust is lost in the new democracy that we can almost talk about a danger zone in also democratic terms we have entered now.

What we would need is political, social and religious leadership which really makes an effort to guide, comfort and lead – so far it is only seen in some places, but very shy as it has to work against a flood of present woes. Courts and civil society organisations have kept the ship South Africa and its democracy and rule of law afloat so far, and it also were those entities preventing more hardship and despair. The country has shown again and again that it could jump from the abyss – but this time it is only possible if there is capability to reconnect politics, business and civil society to form a united front against all the odds South Africa faces. And for this to happen, there must be trust, one of the factors clearly a miss at the moment.

In practical terms speaking: The lockdown has to end – and instead of petty rules we have to learn to live with Covid-19: emphasis clearly on hygiene, physical distance, face-masks in public and testing, hot spot identification and containment. Period. All this can happen without a lockdown.

South Africa has the potential to rise again out of the ashes of its past – this global crisis lend a helping hand to unmask all what is wrong and not healed in this country, but it also showed clearly the potential of civil society and NGO’s and men and women of goodwill to come and join the efforts to tackle what is not right. A clever leadership would cease this moment – and also here: in anticipation…

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

South Africa: Day 108 of lock-down and Mandela Day

When years of looting and corruption, of cadre deployment, hand-outs and entitlement, ideological warfare spiced with hidden racism and unsolved trauma never really healed; when all those meet a small little virus conquering the world it is clear that the battle to defeat the bug highlights and shines light on all the dark corner of shortcomings for such a society.
In 5 days we celebrate in South Africa again Mandela Day – we recall a time when the world admirably looked at the country and Africa as a continent took pride in having one of their sons being seen as a reconciler of epic proportion. The miracle of a peaceful transition, the vision of a rainbow nation – the promise of a future for all where race, creed and sex play no role any more and equality and human rights are enshrined in the constitution and the Bill of Rights.

This dream and promise lives on, even if momentarily the situation looks almost the opposite – a president speaking live on TV while millions are plunged in darkness of load shedding and not even able to listen to him and others refuse to switch on the TV assuming the outcome and knowing that things might anyhow change in the days to come. Desperate, angry, helpless – the words of news commentators describing his speech mirror the current situation for many South Africans, who simply try to survive the madness of a developing junk state infected by a virus.

What makes the situation even worse is that the normal citizen can’t distinguish any more what are real concerns of the current political elite and what is the result of ideology and the vicious circle of covering up and in-fights. No wonder, that the latent and often not so hidden tendency to drink as an escape route to forget for a moment has almost become a social one – showcased in the on/off permission of alcohol sale currently forbidden again since last night.

If Mandela Day this week will have one meaning, so it is to keep alive our hopes for this country against all odds. It can’t hide the pain, the hurt, the incompetence, the desperation, the anger; but it can give a glimmer of light, a glimmer of hope. Churches speak in religious speak of realisation as a means to memorize the past for the good of the future – we have to use this year’s Mandela day to realize our potential as a society, as fellow humans; we have to envision the possibilities shown and experienced in 1994 during the First free elections or during the Rugby Final 1995.

The beauty of realisation is that everybody can do it – it is not bound on wealth or income or academic achievements. And it can create the power and synergy needed to overcome the current situation; it can deny the corrupt and criminal within the political elite to prosper further and at the same time bring out all virtues South Africa is also known for as the cradle and origin of human mankind.

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

All was done to the best of the ministers ability

On Friday the Western Cape High Court dismissed an application to declare the lockdown regulations in South Africa invalid and the National Covid Command Council unconstitutional. It walked a fine line making it clear that it was “not for the courts to prescribe to government how it should exercise its mandate in those circumstances.” And given the backtracking of President Ramaphosa regarding the NCCC he clearly avoided a different outcome by changing tune about the role of this structure of government.
While many people were upset with the ruling I thought it was a fair legal assessment – time and circumstances and the persons involved are creating automatically the limitations of actions. I even think that the confusion and intent not to do harm to society was genuine – but ideology and the always backward drifting thinking of national ministers made the case for using and abusing the situation to change the game as such – with all the useless discussions on cloth, cigarettes and other limitations tossed at the life of ordinary South Africans.
Fact remains that lives were not only disrupted but the balance of lives and livelihoods massively disturbed – millions without work and millions will be out of work and income because of the action our government took to fight the virus.  We are still in lockdown and looking at the destruction of the tourism industry and the application of BEE in questions of compensation there is the question of race and racism, the demons of the past, underlying very present in the actions of government in a crisis.

Common sense dictates that the virus will be with us for the years to come; common sense also tells us that lockdowns don’t work on a long term – and instead of hampering the economics much longer government should concentrate on things which simply are the only existing weapons in the fight against the virus:
hygiene,
wearing a face mask in public,
keeping a distance in crowded places,
testing and tracing as much as possible,
motivated hospital staff and enough equipment.
Those measures should be on top of government’s list – those are all things which could be done by all South Africans with a little bit help here and there. Motivation and encouragement instead of finger wagging would help to achieve a collective effort. An effort which would allow for moving out of lockdown, but also leaving behind all the politicising of the Covid-19 crisis.
The numbers of daily new infections per 100 000 inhabitants in most districts of South Africa don’t indicate the need for a further lockdown – they indicate the need for awareness and for taking the people on a road of recovery they can feel, sense and be part of. Looking at other countries like Germany, the magic number for stricter intervention is 50 new infections per 100 000 persons – only the City of Cape Town would fall under more observance applying such measurements.

Covid-19 has laid bare the inequality of society, but also the ideology driving most people in power trying to control every aspect of ordinary South African’s life. It was and still is a time of temptation for power-hungry ministers and party structures; the attempt of Minister Zulu to control the feeding schemes of NGO’s being the latest one. Covid-19 is a chance to unite South Africans and to start the healing process for a society still yearning for it overcoming using and abusing alcohol to escape the pain as a collective by the quantities consumed as a nation.

The fight against Covid-19 calls for abolishing the old systems of thinking in struggle terms, in race categories – its is a chance to create a new narrative born out of crisis, but for that the ability of ministers must grow exponential.

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

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