God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

A pleading president

If the situation would not be so dire, one could be more amazed about the pleading president, South Africans experienced yesterday evening on television. Addressing the nation he introduced more stringed measures to stop the out of control spiralling infection rate, pleading with South Africans while fighting tears to adhere to the rules.

It was a confession that the national government had lost the grip on infection and people; a bitter result of lockdown rules in the past which did not make any sense and at parts were unconstitutional mixed with a general distrust in the population witnessing the corruption levels especially in Covid-19 times of those in power and well-connected. Additional a police force riddled with corruption narratives and a police minister, whose virtue lies definitely not in honest police work or leadership. No improvement here from the failure of “Mr. Fix” as his predecessor. So enforcement levels and capabilities are at an all-time low. Understaffed and often not sufficient trained honest policemen are battling to remain on top of situations.

Add to this mix the strategy of keeping people dependent on hand-outs and an education system which often fails to produce matured thinking and one comes closer to the problems South Africa is governed by in our days.

The ban on alcohol sale and consumption in public was the right move, it highlights the fact that South African society at large has a drinking problem, maybe born out of the misery and hopelessness of people and the still not healed past. On the other hand there will be again a black market and some people, also well-connected will earn again the big bucks like in the times of the cigarette ban some months ago.

Where from here? The vaccine is for South Africa certainly the most promising fix in this situation; but all the commotions about late payments promise not a smooth sailing in this department. The promised vaccine for the first quarter 2021 has suddenly moved to the second quarter – and the indicated big announcements by the President yesterday still have to materialize before one can bank on it.

Covid-19 remains a challenge to the young democracy, and it continues to highlight all the failures and shortcomings of South African society. In this, we are not different from other countries. But we maybe have more to lose if we don’t get it right.

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

The danger of being authoritarian

Whoever watched yesterdays press conference in South Africa, where ministers outlined the response and rules of engagement during the 21 day lock-down might have now second thoughts about the events unfolding. After two presidential speeches from Cyril Ramaphosa, who succeeded in bringing across a coherent and logical response to the Covid-19 challenge, most ministers did not really show the same amount of compassion and sense for realities.

Remarkably some minister clearly showed signs of enjoyment being in charge and feeling in charge. Incoherent information unfortunately did not improve the situation either.
Keeping people apart can be done in different ways – and South Africa choose the method of lock – down. This in itself is not wrong – a tool of virus confinement used also by other nations. The example of Jordan comes to mind when looking how far and how restrictive measurements can be before people will start to rally against them. There is a fine balance between getting it right and going too far.

In a country like South Africa a buy-in of the population is a necessity to get the answer to the Coronavirus right. Understaffed police and military will not be able to control the masses if there is no goodwill amongst those being governed. Townships are not easy to control and the 21 days without income for so many is hardship not easy to endure if you have a family.

It has to be seen how things develop after midnight – the last 24 hours have been clearly an example how far away some political officials are from real life experience. It was also clear to see how split the ANC is between those understanding democracy and the care for those governed and those rather interested in the ideology of a party and power play. South Africa’s lock-down can be the salvation in the pandemic, but only if there is a clear balance between what is really needed to stop the spread of the virus and what is over-reacting for reasons far beyond necessity.

Democracies – especially in the times of such challenges – are in danger of losing out the freedoms they are supposed to guard and guaranteed. The feeling of citizens of being at the mercy of a pandemic can become a breeding ground for those politicians who have not captured and internalised the values of democracy. It is a temptation – and one has to watch out especially in a country without a long track record of this form of government.

 

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

8 policemen and 11 days

What do you expect from the police when you are robbed and all your belongings you carry with you are stolen? Right: to go to the police station and lay charge and get a case number. That’s the theory but it seems that even that simple truth is not always working properly in South Africa.

One of our HOPE Community Health Workers was robbed on the street and with all her belongings also the new tablet just received was taken from her. The tablet, a donation from the Consulate General in Cape Town was insured and so it seemed to be a clear-cut case besides the trauma of being robbed: to go to the Police Station and report the incident and to get the case number for the insurance company. Not so with the South African Police Force. According to them, a tablet can only be reported stolen if one has the number of the SIM Card inserted into the tablet. But what happens if you don’t have a SIM card because your tablet should work only with wireless and there is no need for a SIM card. Well, according to the police their form has a field requiring the SIM card number and the consequences are clear: no SIM Card – no robbery case number.
One would think that policemen are able to think outside the box, but it took 8 different policemen during 11 days to archive the goal: getting a case number – and it needed finally the threat of our outreach facilitator to camp inside the police station until she gets the case number to make it happen.

What do we learn of it: Giving a police officer a form to fill in can be dangerous in South Africa… and there is a long way to go to get people to think on their own or to apply common sense. One of the most dangerous pitfalls in the training and education of South Africa is that repetition is all it need to pass – to think of your own is not only not required but even not wanted. The consequences are obvious and annoying to those having just gotten out of a dangerous situation and then not able to lay charge because of formalities. About police I can share another story just coming to my mind.

I remember being stopped by a policewoman in the North-West Province for not stopping correctly at a four – way stop. I was asked to step out of the car and the fine form was filled in. Question of the policewoman: “What is your profession?” Answer: “I am a priest.” Question: “Is that a profession?” My answer: “Yes” – Follow up question: “How do you spell that?”
Funny? – Well, depends how you see it – but it is better than having to buy chicken wings for hungry police officers to get off the hook while stopped for a traffic offense in Johannesburg.

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sex worker denied PTMCT

At a conference in Johannesburg a sex worker spoke of how she was detained by the police when she was pregnant. Being HIV-positive, she was forced to default on her medication to prevent her from transmitting the infection to her unborn child. “The worst thing for me was being denied my ARV’s when I was on PMTCT (prevention of mother to child HIV transmission programme). I was pregnant and denied this treatment for the whole weekend. I felt it is the worst thing because it was about the child inside of me who could have gotten infected”, she said.

Read the whole article here

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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