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

Don’t crack down on dissent – have a plan and show it!

The fallout of comments made by members of the South African ministerial advisory committee MAC was to be expected – Minster Dr. Zweli Mkhize wasn’t happy and the reported heated exchange leaves the need to little fantasies about tone and emotions during the last meeting.
Obviously a government with a president claiming to follow sound and best advice of the very best academics the country has to offer cannot be happy, when the very same experts question the rationale of decisions made.
We are dealing with a health crisis – so the advice of health experts is of utmost importance – it seems that the political ploy to use this crisis for political gains and the dissatisfaction of “our people” led the academics to the conclusion that they will be blamed for the dire situation instead the politicians in charge of all the hardcore decisions; be it the ban of alcohol and tobacco sale, be it the never ending discussions about what a person is allowed to buy and what not in our times.

For me it is encouraging that those academics who are indeed known for their expertise and listened to at many conferences see finally also the need to speak out and not keep silent about the madness of regulations we are showered with – changing almost on a daily base. I guess the frankness of Trevor Manuel was one of the encouraging trigger point for them to speak out – and they said actually nothing what we did not know – they spoke common sense:

It is a health crisis – and instead of getting imprisoned in stages and rules and fine-tuning of rules there are some facts undisputable and determine the way forward:

  • Government asked and got 5 weeks to prepare for a virus, which will not stop even during lockdown to spread.
  • South Africa with the dense township population and the amount of people living in poverty or on a daily or weekly salary or allowance cannot adhere to Western measurements of e.g. physical distancing over a long period of time.
  • The impact on our economy is almost killing our system – the attempt of some in national government to change the system abusing the crisis is simply not acceptable.
  • We have to live with the virus for a longer time to come – so all public health measures should be – next to screening and testing – the focus point of all governmental efforts. Companies, NGO’s and all other in the working field should get all resources to remain on top of the pandemic and to function as safe as possible.
  • Military personnel should assist in opening field kitchen and field hospitals to assist our weak health system.
  • Parliament must regain oversight control over all the measures again – this is a time parliamentarians have to come together for the greater good of South Africa regardless of political creed.
  • Assistance must be made available to all South Africans – Covid-19 is also a chance to feel that we indeed are all in it.

A clear and transparent time table is needed to open up the economy while using all energy to bolster further our health system and get more testing and tracing done. We can’t live from President’s speech to President speech – expecting afterwards again a change in rules.
Honesty and the willingness to share all information, to explain the steps taken and the attempt to regain the trust lost in the last weeks will go a long way to beat this virus here in South Africa. We don’t need any ideology at the moment, no political grandstanding but humility and decency from those making decisions. No Cuban flag, no camouflage, no finger up in the air, no threats, no kindergarten teacher attitude but clear, sustained smart steps coming out of a common consent that we are all want to beat this little bug in a way, that makes us stronger and more resilient in the future.

 

Filed under: General, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , ,

Short sleeved t-shirts – as long as they are intended to be used to keep you warm

Madness pure – that is the only description possible following the actions, the South African Covid-19 Central Command – which is not the democratic elected government but an invented structure with lots of constitutional question marks – takes at times.

Yesterday two announcements made this clear again:

Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Trade and Industry published again guidelines what South African’s can buy or not buy. We have had in the last weeks discussions whether roasted chicken, sold in its warm form poses a health risk and the confusion about his directions caused a Woolworth store to not allow for the sale of underwear as they did not clearly fall under the category of “winter cloth”. Out of this sort of confusion South Africans get again and again updated versions of what they can buy or what are existential goods and what government does not allow selling at all. The question of selling alcohol or cigarettes being the prominent ones as they are forbidden under current legislation. Obviously the black markets, often connected to politics, is raving about such decisions and cashing in.

Yesterday, the new list of cloth to be sold was gazetted by Patel, who now determined, that short sleeved t-shirts are only to be sold, if they intend to be used to keep us warm – the official gazetted wording is:
short sleeved t-shirts, where promoted and displayed as under garments for warmth

The new rules apply immediately and are specific to Level 4,so the Minister in the Government Gazette,
It shows to which length national Ministers go to combat the virus.

But competition is not far in finding ways to combat Covid-19: Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, always in military camouflage and the Cuban flag on her beret to prove her socialist military approach to the pandemic said her department would be tightening the screws on organisations who distribute food to the needy. In her view it can’t be that those going hungry are receiving a warm meal from NGO’s or other charity organisations. As there is anyhow a tendency to allow only government (say: ANC) to provide for the needy, obviously the work of those non-profit organisations disturb the picture of only the ruling party provides for the poor and the sick. Plans are to allow for such food delivery for the starving population only with a permission given out by her department. Having in mind that her food parcel delivery plans are often marred by chaos, stealing and non-delivery, this approach amounts to  depriving people of food which translates in keeping people in their misery of hunger and despair.

While Patel’s list has almost a comical stroke and one could laugh it off the plans of Minister Zulu are endangering lives and the very fabric of society. Hungry people have nothing to lose any more and even the military, called to police people will not be able to stop a development bringing South Africa further down. For the sake of those who have nothing – the nonsense has to stop.

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

In need of help

Dear Friends and Partners, near and far –

HOPE CAPE TOWN in South Africa urgently needs your support:
As in many townships, a lack of food and hunger is a huge problem in Blikkiesdorp – we kindly ask for donations in order to be able to give our children a meal.

The children cannot play outside as shown in this picture, they live with their families during our lock-down in a very confined space.

Through Stacy, our HOPE Cape Town employee who lives in Blikkiesdorp, we are able to provide some hot meals for the kids.

Besides Blikkiesdorp there is need in so many other townships HOPE Cape Town is presently working. Our HOPE doctors and Community Health Workers are part of the essential services and hard at work to keep the virus at bay.

 

Donation accounts:

South Africa:
Account Name: HOPE Cape Town Trust
Bank: Standard Bank of South Africa Limited
Account Number: 07 027-452-5
Branch Code: 020909
SWIFT code: SBZAZAJJ
Branch Name: Thibault Square

Germany:
Account name: Catholic Foreign Secretariat
Bank: Commerzbank, Koeln
Account number: 2 114 021 00 (BLZ 370 800 40)
SWIFT-BIC.: DRESDEFF370
IBAN: DE72370800400211402100
Password: HOPE Cape Town Trust

Donation via our website:
www.hopecapetown.com

Any support, big or small, will help!
Please feel free to share…
Thank you very much and please stay healthy!

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

HOPE in the times of lock-down

Since yesterday evening it is official: South Africa will go in a 21-day lock down from Thursday night and all non-essential work will cease, freedom of movement is suspended and police and military will have a watchful eye that all rules and regulations are adhered to in the weeks to come.
For an NGO like HOPE Cape Town those are difficult times on several levels:
Firstly our medical staff will continue to work and give their very best to battle the pandemic and see patients; exposing themselves to the risks of being infected. A constant worry for those responsible in the organisation which otherwise also has to shut down so-called non-essential services. Obviously our definition differs from the one the law prescribes: knowing how much people in various townships depend on assistance it is sometimes difficult to imagine how those less fortunate survive in even more dire circumstances. Believe it or not: this adds to the stress level of those who are not allowed to work in the fields as HOPE Cape Town employees.
And there is a third level of worries: the financial ones. Obviously in this crazy time many people and companies are struggling to keep themselves afloat – donating to a charity is the last on their minds which results in major income losses for NGO’s. And unfortunately, no state has yet acknowledged those financial woes, only companies for gains will receive government assistance. We will see quite some charities closing their doors because the lack of funds, we will see lots of retrenchments as a result of lock-downs and other measures, which mean to save societies from a high number of infections and mortality.

HOPE Cape Town tries to mitigate all negative factors and has till now always found a way to survive challenging times. Even in the times of Covid-19, which is unprecedented the organisation will be able not only to survive but to continue it’s much-needed work medically during the crisis and socially after the lock-down. Obviously it welcomes donations via its web page www.hopecapetown.com or any other sign of solidarity.

Codvid-19 shows us, that we are all in the same boat – that we are part of something much bigger we as humans can only master in parts. It is a strong reminder that the power of humanity has its limitation and that human mankind might have forgotten about it. Economy alone and constant economic progress is no salvation, but becomes part of a problem as shown by a small little virus shutting virtually down this world as we know it.

Covid-19 can be a game-changer of our mindsets, it can make us more aware and more humble, it can point out the faults of our societies and it can raise an awareness, many NGOs embody in their daily work. We as the human race owe each other, and we owe creation in a much deeper way we normally realize. Time to readjust our awareness – a lock-down time is not only a challenge but also an opportunity to reflect and to do better afterwards. Not because we are scared, but because we have learned something for life. And in doing so, we create hope in the times of a lock-down.

Filed under: Africa, General, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , ,

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