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

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

Covid-19 Lockdown & Trauma


Trauma100 days of Lockdown, I have written and tried to summarize it in my last blog – but one topic, which needs to have its rightful place in an extra blog entry is something, most have not spent too much time on:
The trauma, this crisis and the lockdown has caused for most of the people, and the trauma-related consequences as an individual or as a society – in the case of South Africa anyhow adding to all the burden of a past still not healed.

Being threatened by an invisible enemy is already difficult to comprehend for many – but taken out of normal life completely is a complete other category of trauma:

Think of those living alone and suddenly for weeks without real social contact and maybe nobody to turn to;

think of those whose security was family and suddenly they were not allowed to see them, visit them, be with them, when they became sick or even died;

think of those who were exposed to police or military brutality, suddenly made a criminal after a life without any running into trouble with the law.

Think you those who had been forced to live in an abusive relationship for weeks without being able to run away;

think of the nightmares of the kids not really understanding why all is suddenly so different;

think of the people in townships who were asked, often without real explanation to distance themselves from each other, to stay home in a dense environment without income, food or perspective.

Also think of the people in the health sector fighting every day to keep patients alive and feeling at the same time threatened by the small little virus themselves and consequently their loved ones.

Life, as it has been for many born as “free” suddenly changed in a way, they never could have imagined; and those who have lived through wars and famine – how much déjà vu have they experienced in the last weeks. And not to forget here in South Africa all the limitations during apartheid times – again confined, berated, told what to do by politicians so far away from reality and enforced by a security cluster resembling in parts past experiences.

Being helpless and having to surrender to an apparatus run by people who have allowed, willingly participated or gained from the so-called lost years of state capture and corruption in South Africa creates another trauma.

And for those following world politics there is another trauma to add in the shape of a Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Victor Orbán, Rodrigo Duterte and others, showing that human mankind has certainly not reached the point of reasonable development, most of us would have thought we have developed. It’s shocking…

TraumaTrauma must be addressed and worked through – and here would be normally also religious institutions coming into the picture besides the professionals – but the mere absence of leadership in this sector in this time of crisis in so many countries created a trauma itself, but that might be a topic for another time.

Individual and collective traumata – this crisis is so much more than just a health or economic crisis…

 

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

GBV horror

stop-gender-based-violenceIt seems to explode after easing the lockdown a bit in South Africa: Gender based violence. So much so that President Ramaphosa used his last address on national TV to call it a war against women, not to forget children.
The news of victims being raped, killed, burned, thrown away next to roads and motorways are piling up while social media is used by the police to celebrate having arrested another load of cigarettes on their way to the consumers during prohibition of sale.
It is a fact we also know from other instances:
While stealing millions gives you a free pass surfing the waves in lockdown sets whole cohorts of policemen in motion. More than 250 000 South Africans became criminals during the first weeks of lockdown while thieves enjoy their time as Members of Parliament seemingly untouched.
And there lies also the problem with Ramaphosa’s appeal to wage war against the war on women: he lacks meanwhile often the political authority let alone moral credibility to be really heard and listened to.

The South African society has first to start much more reconciliation and healing before this war can be won – and for this to happen it needs credible leader and generally a leadership which does not use the past as a weapon to keep wounds open, BEE as a Ponzi scheme to enrich the connected and allow for corruption to fester and poison further an anyhow potentially volatile situation.

South Africa’s past lingers unhealed in the presence, not only apartheid, but the Boer war, the British concentration camps and not to forget the influence of faith and religion as a driver for freedom and injustice at the same time. South Africa is in so many ways a concentrated and painful mirror and an example of the woes and traumata societies and countries are going through looking at their suppressed past. A global phenomenon so visible at the moment.

Now add to this poverty and desperation and the feeling of powerlessness of many South Africans to change their situation.

This mix of unhealed historical burden and current impotence to escape renders the problem of alcohol in our society  explainable – alcohol is a very human way of trying to sooth the pain and relax the mood, but it is also a way of trying to escape reality and at the end it leads to irrational behaviour and dependency. Or addiction which is close to unruly behaviour and often violence.

To overcome, to heal, to reconcile, to move forward as humans, as society, as a human race we need moral and impeccable leadership, fellow humans whose interest is the well-being of all instead of a few and whose actions bring people together. People who then see themselves as equal, who thrive on the idea of complementing each other to move forward for the benefit of all.

To end GBV does not come cheap – but it is worth every effort and sacrifice.

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

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