God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Balance is needed and realities appreciated

It is said that in South Africa, it is difficult to find middle ground – it is either black or white, laissez-faire or authoritarian, and looking at measures taken in the country it seems to confirm this observation. Stringent and harsh measures were announced and tried to enforce in the last days leaving behind those whose life reality is so different from those who try to prescribe them. So we saw in many township communities chaos on Friday, the first day of the lock-down: people still had to go to the shops because only when they are paid, they can go shopping. It was clear that government simply forgot to factor in reality.
Videos of aggressive reacting military without any possibility to identify them; police ordering people out of their own yard into their house with doors closed and so demonstrating that they did not understand the rules neither but also township residents defying orders and calling Covid-19 a white man’s disease demonstrated the gaps in dealing with the crisis. On the other hand: it is indeed an overwhelming task to get all citizens to understand the seriousness of this challenge.

Obviously too harsh measures will backfire – and it is noted that e.g. the sale of cigarettes is now allowed in supermarkets – there is no meaning in keeping a smoker 21 days without cigarettes and expect him to feel relaxed at home during lock-down. Government must and should fine-tune measures, but obviously having problematic ministers like Cele running partly the show will make this a challenge for the nation. Especially in a township environment where people really have to struggle every day to survive measures must be coherent, but also understandable and manageable for those living there.
In a situation like ours it would also be good if the President himself is able to reassure the nation on a regular base – people here simply listening rather to him than to compromised ministers or head of departments. State capture has destroyed quite some trust into state organs and this should not be underestimated. It also has widened the gap between those who have or are in charge and those whose life has not changed a lot in the last years still remaining under the poverty line.

There is another aspect which seems important – giving out the figures of confirmed testing does only tell half of the story as we know the virus can come and go without needing hospitalization.  We need antibody tests to find out how many people are already immune and survived the virus without major consequences.  We know that children and younger people are less likely to develop tough symptoms. So knowing the infection rate, but also the immunisation rate can give important indications for the future handling of the pandemic.  It also helps to give people a perspective of what to expect in the next months to come. As important the update of current status is, important is also to give citizens a realistic hope and with that a goal to achieve jointly as society.

Finding a balance after a good start, appreciating realities and work with them – we will see what the next days might bring on fine-tuning measures, transparency in communication and also some more training for SAPS and SANDF so that the service with humility, the president spoke about, becomes a reality. In days like these citizens put their trust in government by allowing the curtailing of civil rights – alone this must be reason of careful consideration how to progress in the fight against Covid-19 in South Africa.

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

Philip Seymour Hoffman death is speaking volumes

Another actor dead as a result of drug use; it seems that celebrities and public persons have more possibilities to entertain drug use, even confessing to it, getting clean only to start all over again. Fame seems not to translate into a happy life but into depression and yearning for more and the ultimate kick. All those stories tell us about a tragedy of being put on a pedestal and the assumption, that money and VIP treatment creates happiness in life. From Withney Houston, Amy Winehouse to Heath Ledger and Chris Kelly – they all tell the story of stars  at the end not able to connect to real life; and personalities, whose need for excitement, paired with unlimited finances and so-called VIP friends brought on a lifestyle that often breeds addiction.
It leaves the question what really carries us through life? Is it money, fame or at the end such simple things like love, good friends, a lover holding on to the person even in bad times?
For me such tragedies show how life can be wasted by slipping into an artificial life style often fostered by the need to have again and again a new story for all these celebrity magazines which live and strive of the curiosity of its readers.  So at the end it is the mixture of extreme personalities and perceived society demands which creates the need for drugs and prescribed medication leading to early death.
How far away is from this the daily struggle of those we cater for at HOPE Cape Town. It seems so far away, but at the end, it boils down to the same human experience: anxiety, yearning for love and acknowledgement, the feeling of loneliness and the cry for help in one or the other way. Celebrity person in Hollywood and a person in the townships of Cape Town:  when it comes to emotions, there is a certain similarity for sure.

Filed under: General, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Myth or reality?

The Consultation

The Consultation (Photo credit: bigbluemeanie)

We all have heard it many times: 80% of black South Africans consult a sangoma before they even consider going to a Western Clinic. I always wondered about it, having worked with sangomas and being involved with the work HOPE Cape Town has done and is still doing in parts with traditional leaders. What I have seen is little work for sangomas, lots of part-time traditional healers and a break down in related traditions in the townships of Cape Town. Well, a 2012 article in the South African Medical Journal went further, suggesting that “some 80% of South Africans use traditional medicine to meet their primary healthcare needs”. The claim has also been made in general terms about the population of Southern Africa and the African continent. So where did the claim originate and is there any truth to it?  GroundUp, a South African community journalism project, asked Africa Check to investigate. Their starting point was the World Health Organisation (WHO). A fact sheet on traditional medicine published by the body in 2008 is often cited when the claim is made. “In some Asian and African countries,” it states, “80% of the population depend on traditional medicine for primary health care.” The fact sheet does not include any evidence to substantiate the statement, but one can find a reference to a document discussing the WHO’s Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005. And this was not the end of the research – to read more about Africa Check’s research and its amazing result follow this link.

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

15.02.2010 And another murder…

I know it does not fit into all the hype about the soccer world cup, but with Joseph Dominic Giddy the third student has been murdered in Cape Town within 6 months.  Stabbed during a robbery while on his way home with friends, he is once again someone who was at the wrong place the wrong time. It is sometimes difficult to paint a fair picture of the situation in South Africa while one is thorn between the plight to encourage people to come to South Africa for the world cup and the knowledge, that things are also not in order here at the bottom of the continent.
But what is a fair picture? Telling only the official statistics which would be a disaster… Or just saying that most of the times only locals are killed? Are they less worth than tourists? I find it increasing difficult because now before the big event, there seems to be two camps: one painting a rosy picture and one painting a dark black one. Both are obviously wrong, but on the other hand: How can one do a balanced picture when press is only reporting in broadbrushed terms because that’s what the speed of news requires: quick and just touching it, no in dept information any more. It is a pity. The way modern press and news agency have developed makes it almost impossible to have the time for a journalist, to feel the pulse of the country for a while before giving a diagnose, the first heart peep, so to speak, is already the whole story.

I am living now for almost 13 years in the country and I think it is one of the greatest countries one can live in, no question about it, but at the same time I acknowledge that life is cheap here and that there is a long way to go for society to get a grip on this fact and change it.  And coming today from an extensive outing again into the lives of those less fortune I am convinced that it needs so much more efforts from politics and civil society to bring back this respect for life.

I still hope that the soccer world cup 2010, which was the nail for this country not to take a deeper dip in many regards, will also serve as a push to drive in that direction. And for that we need great games, a feeling, that we are good here in South Africa, that we are on the right track as the people of a wounded nation. A great future is ahead of us, when we don’t derail but move forward with reconciliation and respect and dignity.

Filed under: Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , ,

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