God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

In between

“In between” – that is surely for most of us living in South Africa the ‘state of affairs’ when asked how one feels after a long, currently still running lockdown, which was marred by nonsensical governmental decisions, clearly political motivated moves and prohibitions and the attempt, to rewrite a failing economy according to fantasy driven revolutionary and socialistic world-view, add some racist undertones.  Not to forget the difficulty to comprehend stealing of Covid-19 funds through fraudulent tenders which according to our President has its roots in the Apartheid times. The latter argument does not deserve any further comment.

On the good side we statistically have had clearly fewer casualties through Covid-19 then predicted; even though the lockdown was far away from perfectly executed. In the well run Western Province the prophecy of overrun hospitals and the exceeding demand versus existent capacity never materialized and this province became a showcase what South Africans are capable of if they plan and execute accordingly. South Africa has definitely the capacity to weather the storms of a pandemic. Competence instead of cadre deployment does help, lifestyle audit instead of empty promises of such – empathy instead of ideology – lots to learn from the Province, which certainly has also its faults.

On a personal level many lost job and income, hunger and despair became regular guests in many of the township communities; violence, illegal land invasion and service deliver protests gave and still give witness of the nothing to lose sphere, describing the mood of many having lost hope for a better life. Food security is on an all-time low, unemployment on an all-time high – and the gap between ordinary South African and their national minister in government and those connected visible like never before. Covid-19 has laid bare of the woes of South Africa, all the skeleton hidden under the carpet are in the open, to be seen by those who want to see it.

While some industries are trying to recover and restart, others are desperately waiting for the opportunity to kick-start – depending on opening the borders again. Many African countries are welcoming tourists again responsibly – in South Africa, the hospitality industry is impatiently waiting – the relevant bodies have presented safety protocols but it seems that national government has some second thoughts considering the industry white dominated. The discussion about assistance based on race was an indicator for certain considerations of the relevant minister in this regard.

We are in between – and the next weeks will show whether the so-called new normal becomes really the normal without lockdown and disaster regulations. Emphasis on face-mask, distance and hygiene should be the order of the day – opening up a way out of the ‘in between’ into a new chapter.

In between times are always openings for possible fair redress and progress – even if the chances are small that a powerless president and a corrupt ANC system will use this time wisely and speed up a development of sustained progress, hope will die last. Let’s wait and see, but not too long: times in between, dragged out, are becoming missed opportunities.

Filed under: 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, , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Another sleepless night…

Another sleepless night – after a day when rain pouring down like heavens floodgates have been opened to flush away all the dirt and dust – sleep has only come for hours.
South Africa celebrated Women’s Day; and because it happened to be a Sunday – the early morning hours promise another day of holiday. But does it really matter?
For so many people 136 days of lockdown meant many such days off – days without earning any money, days without having anything to do than to worry about how to feed the family, how to survive without income, how to bring food on the table and how to keep sane and safe.
While ANC cadre, their families and the connected are busy with syphoning money into their own pockets by abusing tender for PPE and other life saving goods, while they are busy creating new companies to steal and loot the state coffers, the ordinary man seems to be sentenced to struggle for survival; taking hostage by politicians who up their game of ideology and ignorance: “There is no way in which you can assume that yesterday’s oppressed will not become tomorrow’s oppressor”, so the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

A bitter truth for a country which dreamt 1994 of a rainbow nation, which envisaged a society where equality and self-determination would trump over an ugly past. Dreams often forget human factors: greed and entitlement in this case, and the re-write of history, which made one movement the sole liberator of South Africa, scratching out the efforts of millions around the world contributing to the birth of the new democracy. After a furious start with tons of good intentions the inner dynamics of a splitting ANC spelled trouble for the nation – the lost years of corruption and state capture cemented the downfall and Covid-19 brought all the dilemmas and cover-ups, the unsolved and unhealed to the forefront.

It creates sleepless nights for those still dreaming of South Africa as a force for good in this world – the Madiba magic so many have forgotten about or even talking down this time of hope and aspiration.
It creates sleepless nights for those still dreaming of South Africa, cradle of mankind, as the place, where the word “race” is abolished to categorize people and building a society out of the broken fragments history provides.

South Africa is at a decisive point:
It can choose to continue destroying the very fabric of society, shut down any aspiration for some generations to come, or it  can rise like Phoenix out of the ashes turning around the path of social destruction. There is no place to hide any more; Covid-19 has taken away any hiding place and highlighted the state of affair: it is up to us, to everybody living in this beautiful part of the world to decide on turning around and away from the abyss or giving in into a further eroding of decency and human rights, of morality and justice – serving only those who calling the shots in a society, which is one of the most unequal in the world.

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

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, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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