God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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, , , , , , , , , , ,

The shadows of the past come to bite back…

Psychologists can get carried away talking about the shadows of the past – the déjà vu of things coming back and the bible speaks about the sins of the forefathers still haunting the generations to come.
Somehow this came to my mind listening the announcements of the lady, who once fought to keep antiretroviral treatment out of South Africa, then wasted millions of money on a play which never took of in the ages of HIV and now seamingless transitioned into the teacher-for-small-kids-style bearer of bad news, being inconsistent and partly making no sense at best.

The news given came from the “COVID-19 Command Council” – a structure deemed suspiciously absent in the constitution and the laws of the land – created by the President without visible and clear discussions in the National Parliament. In a way it feels like emergency laws of some sorts are back and looking at the divide between suburban with people following the rules and becoming upset social media snitches in WhatsApp groups and in real life while scenes of brutality by law agencies and military in townships even trigger the concern of the UN.  Does that not sound familiar for those living all their lives in South Africa?

And there is the President, sweet-talking once in a while and trying to build momentum for the crisis to be tackled meaningful – but let’s be honest: Don’t come to mind the many crisis commands and war rooms from Eskom to whatever where a certain Deputy President was tasked to solve problems – anyone present to vouch for meaningful results in all those cases?

And last but not least the inconsistency in announcements, the forward and backward within formalising the rules – sold to us as part of the process guided by science and data we were never privy to see – so much about transparency – and in truth the turf war between those trying to abuse the situation for a so-called new economy-not-for-all South Africans, but spiked by race consideration, add RET mixed with socialist and communist recipes – aiming at bringing down a country out of ideological considerations.

So here we are now:
Having been sold a way out of lockdown only to realise that the new rules are again have inconsistencies and partly don’t make any sense.
Jogging outside and walking the dogs is allowed under strict conditions, but please when certainly no sun is shining early in the morning before sunrise – being out in the sun after 5 weeks of been completely locked away would indeed be harmful for health.
A complete curfew from 8 pm – leaving the chefs of the restaurants offering dinner-to-order scramble to clean the kitchen and be home at that time – and giving those delivery-services no time to really do their job – because they have to be home when business is needed to perform: dinner time.
Cigarettes are banned again after being the promise of sale allowed – the black markets are in delight and surely a certain political party too if whispers is to believe that this trade financed political activities and leaders too.

But not all is doom and gloom – some beauty products are now allowed to be bought by the desperate citizens of this country – and personal computer equipment after 5 weeks of digital homeschooling without the luxury of exchanging broken equipment: at least now the broken mouse can be replaced.
People, who were caught up not at home when lockdown was announced have now one opportunity to get home – if and when transport is available. And obviously police and military manning roadblocks are on the newest level of updated information, because that seems to be another constant weakness of the system: the uncertainty and grey areas of what is allowed and what not and the often reported ignorance of law enforcement making up their own rules.

Shadows of the past coming to bite in the current time – Covid-19 is showing clearly how much of the “old” is still prevalent in the country, the system, in the agencies and the behaviour of people. The new democracy has less been embraced than many have thought, the danger and temptation of authoritarian rule  is present and the complete lack of remorse for the years of state sponsored looting and its appreciation when talking about the 500 billion rescue package triggering the fear of corruption doesn’t promise an easy future for South Africa.

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

Desperation meets incompetence

xeno
Picture: copyright: Spotlight Jesuit Institute South Africa

“Mr President how should we react ? What about you ? In just over 48 hours a boxing champ shot dead , a UCT student raped and killed , a child kidnapped from school , stores in Malvern & Jeppe looted and burned , 607 Patients at Baragwanath wait up to 9 months for an MRI scan.”

This twitter from Ashraf Garda yesterday describes the situation and questions most South Africans have in our days – while a new dawn was promised and people started to believe it, the reality kicks in that a new dawn also needs new people. Moving forward and having the incompetence, the corruption, the ideology of yesterday as part of the deal will never work as also Zimbabwe shows in an very intense way.
But South Africa would not be South Africa if there is not a twist to the story: While some journalists paint a bleak picture for the foreign press and undermine tourism which counts as one of the most important income sector of the country the truth is that tourists are very seldom even get in touch with all the murder, violence and lack of service delivery. It seems that two movies are playing out for the time being and only those who paint with broad strokes are not able to see it. And contribute to the downfall of society even more as jobs are lost.

Keeping people in work and creating new jobs, bolstering the tax base, strengthening the service delivery record of government on all spheres are the fundamental requirements if this country is destined not to fallen prey to despair and chaos. Creating more and more situations where role models and success stories counter the hopelessness and despair of the ordinary people is needed. And of course government must play its part: Shelving the madness of an NHI , stopping to run behind a socialistic tainted ideology which has been proven to fail a long time ago, retiring with honor all those whose only credential are struggle stories from the past, putting whatever money is left in infrastructure, education and health and last but not least partner with reliable NGO’s and civil society organization to turn the tide. I know this is a lot asked in our situation where it seems that the corrupt political elite’s ethic filters down to the streets of our major cities.

And it will only work if the president of this country – instead of traveling the world and talking nicely – shows leadership, stops the cabal of the Zupta fractions in it’s track, reassures the nation not with talk but the right action in showing that honesty, hard work and dedication to the well-being of society are at the forefront of public service. Healing also starts when justice is served, as slow as it may be in a democracy – but those implicated at the Zondo commission must have their day in court so that people see that indeed everybody is equal in front of the law.

Desperation of the poor meets the incompetence of many in government, incapacitated by a strong ideology – the good news is: this is not a physical law but a status to be overcome by using common sense and the yearning of most people in this country for a better future for all. It’s possible or as a Nike advertising states: Just do it! And please: don’t blame foreigners for your own sins and lack of action and planing…

 

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

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