God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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

A new form of state capture?

State capture is defined as a type of systemic political corruption in which private interests significantly influence a state’s decision-making processes to their own advantage. In times of Covid-19 there arises the question, whether not private interests but collective interest of a group within the ruling party significantly influences a state’s decision-making process to their own advantage and ideology.

The installation of a so called Covid-19 Command council, a government grouping which was originally tasked to  deliberate and makes decisions on steps the country should take to manage the pandemic during the lockdown was turned only days later via the Presidency’s official Twitter page into “leading” the response to the crisis. Suddenly a “collective” was ruling South Africa – and during the last weeks, announcements were made only to be withdrawn or changed seemingly at the leisure of members of this council. The rare appearance of the President himself, his soft and moderate approach was often countered by harsh and threatening messages of his own ministers or his co-chair, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The now famous “cigarette selling promise” highlighted the shift in responsibility for everybody to see.

Questions also arose and are not put to rest about the legality of the Covid-19 Command council, but also the way, the entire SANDF was called to enforce lockdown rules, which even the former Minister Trevor Manuel calls in question. It does “not passed the test of rationality”, so Manuel and further: “What you can and can’t buy and so on doesn’t work. Also, the idea that you can exercise only in a three-hour period. None of these pass the test of rationality,” “We need voices to speak to the National Command Council and ask that rationality be the order of the day.”

The attempt to force NGO’s to channel food supply through government – read: through the ANC in most cases – is another sign, that things are not right and motivations have to be questioned. The announcements of various minsters and the president himself of using – or should we better say: abusing the Covid-19 crisis to create a new economy adds to the feeling, that measures taken are not only in the interest of overcoming a health crisis. Limiting possibilities of work for foreigners, demanding a higher percentage for hospitality to open doors again, talking of RET in a time when every business – except the black market for cigarettes and alcohol – is suffering, enforcing BEE on the tourism sector at this moment in time signals intentions beyond health. And when suddenly the procurement of nuclear power comes into discussions – déjà vu is not far away.

The question of the numbers of infections in the Western Province, related to strategy and systematic testing becomes also more and more the taste of a political battle field – veiled threats mainly on social media to tighten the lockdown in the province again and ignoring facts warrants attention.

South Africa needs at the moment the goodwill of all people, it needs transparency and an honest approach to kick start the economy by balancing health and work. We were told that the lockdown has given government the time to prepare for the onslaught of the virus which will happen. We know that a continuation of the lockdown does not serve any purpose in the dense populations of South Africa but only brings our economy further down the drain and unemployment will climb to heights never seen in the country. Let’s not allow a group within the ruling party to jeopardize the progress made and let’s not allow the fragile fabric of the new South Africa been thorn in pieces by the abuse of a worldwide crisis.

 

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

Bad news for South Africa?

Attentive observers already had a feeling that the measures governing South Africa at the moment are not only Covid-19 related but now a speech of President Ramaphosa confirmed in not uncertain terms that the crisis is a perfect smokescreen to change the economics and with it the social fabric of South Africa in one go.

In remarks in Kwazulu Natal on Tuesday, the 5th of May he spoke about the reconstruction of South Africa’s economy and said:
“Covid-19 is quite frankly giving us an opportunity to relook at our economic side of life to see how we as South Africans reconstruct our economy after coronavirus, knowing that coronavirus has dealt us a huge blow. … This is a post-war situation. We have been fighting an invisible enemy and now we must start planning for a post-war situation which gives rise to a number of challenges and opportunities. … Radical economic transformation must underpin the economic future that we will need to craft going forward. We should be able to do this through a new compact we are going to build”

Listening to him provides then the background to understand the measures taken not only to combat the pandemic and concentrate on cushioning the impact on poverty and economy but more than less intentionally manoeuvre the state into a new compact while the country struggles with massive financial woes and still waiting to recover money wasted by corruption and ideology since decades.
While millions of people in this country struggle to secure enough food, while staff in hospitals feel let down and anxious, while repatriations of South Africans end up in fiasco and rules and regulations change by the day with no end in sight – instead of fixing what is first important it seems that the ruling party sees the Covid-19 pandemic as a perfect opportunity to radically change the game while people are in lockdown and challenged by often questionable rules made by those roaming freely because of their VIP status.

Nobody in this country is against transformation and a better future for all – but with the track record of government in running SOE’s and the fiscal challenges piling up every day more – abusing a health crisis to achieve this transformation will bring more misery to those anyhow left out since years. Instead of using the time for a narrative of “we are all South Africans – and we together will come out stronger”  the impression is that rather racial undertones and racial scoring has the upper hand, deepening the trauma of this society.

Adding the clear signs, that the past has not left office for the members of the South African National Defence Forces and the South African Police Service – having been implicated in several cases of brutality and torture – the question of transformation as a healing process and not a radical process is even more urgent. This country will not be able to have a future if ideology, racism, tribalism and lingering in the past governs supreme.

Covid-19 is now more than a health challenge – it is a challenge whether the new democratic South Africa and society as such allows those in power to use the situation for their own ideological gain or if the last 25 years brought enough appreciation for democratic rules as a guarantee for a future for all South Africans and with it for Africa as a continent.
At this moment in time, the prospects look very muddy – but not all is lost. Maybe the courts will come to the rescue again looking at the non-democratic command structures formed and increasingly questioned by constitutional lawyers.

 

 

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

Billions of Rand promised…

Praises are sung again in many quarters of South Africa about the leadership of President Ramaphosa after his speech yesterday evening – twitter and social media repeat the billions of Rand promised: R500 billion strong economic and social support package with an increase in child support grants of R300 next month and R500 a month from June to October; all other grant beneficiaries will receive an additional R250 a month and to top it: a special coronavirus grant of R350 a month will go to those who are unemployed and do not receive any other form of grant or UIF payment. The Department for Social Development, UIF and SASSA are named to execute parts of this money blessings and the dawn of a new economy was promised after the hardship of lockdown- to be lifted
… gradually … to be announced on Thursday.

At the same time Ramaphosa authorised the employment of an additional 73180 members of SANDF to assist SAPS in keeping law and order – either an admission, that 2820 soldiers already employed are not enough to enforce the lockdown next to the usual law enforcement agencies or a promise for further painful measures to come.
Additional Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma floated the idea that the Western Province, Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal as the hotspots of Corona-19 could see a prolonged lockdown while other provinces are able to lift some restrictions earlier.
Accompanied is all this by the news that Eskom announces load shedding will resume after lockdown and news of SAA and the land bank standing before collapse.

Mixed messages, hope and realities – and certainly one reality is that all plans and all leadership needs people to execute them.
The blatant failure of SASSA, the national Ministry of Social Development and UIF to deliver so far on a much smaller scale of measurements; the absolute questionable performances of Ministers like Mbalula, Cele and so many more are not giving rise to the hope that the new economy will fly or reach the people in a way that uplifts and renews society.
Cadre deployment and corruption – past and ongoing – is once again the danger to bring down and hinder some of the plans we heard last night from the President.
Bringing in outside financial institutions to assist means that within the ANC those hard-liners lead by Ace Magashule must finally admit defeat and abandon their radical economic transformation plans.

I did not see a self-confident Ramaphosa last night, I rather had the impression that deep in his heart he knew that all the promises, all the billions of Rand hang at the end on being able to win the battle within the party but also the ability to execute on all levels of government – filtering down relief and good ideas without corruption and all the failures, administration is marred with at the moment.

The level of hunger and despair of the people in South Africa, acknowledged by the President last night and the current inability to deliver adequate help and assistance has to be mitigated at short notice to avoid a failure of all the plans we heard last night.
Words must translate in deeds the people feel, promised Rands must translate in filled stomachs, stimulus packages must hit the nail for those at the many margins of society soon and lockdown must end soon in a feasible manner for all South Africans, otherwise the fifth address of the President will go down in history as another pie in the sky.

 

 

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

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