God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Reclaiming the City??

In South Africa, especially the Western Cape and Cape Town the question of redressing the past is a hot topic. And lot is written about the recent so-called “Tafelberg School” judgement and as usual the war of words is between those who feel Apartheid spatial planning has to be rectified and the City of Cape Town is not doing enough and those who defend the City of Cape Town’s handling of the sale which is now stopped in its track. Movements reclaiming the city want available space being used to diversify the population and to make it affordable to live in the city and its direct surrounding suburbs.

Not denying the ills of Apartheid spatial planning and the question of redressing it I fail to understand the way it is proposed by activists for many reasons.

The first is the pattern of trying to redress the past in focusing on the city which is already highly densified; in parts more than roads and services can handle.
Secondly Covid-19 has clearly shown the disadvantage of high density in cities – pointing rather than to the fact that the cities of the future will have to have more central hubs where people want to live and work.
Thirdly I believe that a future can’t work within the old patterns of thinking.

I understand all the emotions, the real ones and the ones produced for a purpose; but emotions can only be the trigger point for developments – they are not very helpful when strategizing and executing to reach the goal.

So instead of claiming the city back my question would be how we can create more central hubs within the greater Cape Town area where people want to live and work. What kind of institutions or landmarks could be established in other areas than the inner city attracting people of all heritages wanting to live and finding work around them.
Putting the Zeiss Museum or the stadium at the Waterfront or its proximity was not a really clever idea  – they could have been a focal point in other areas of the Greater Cape Town area attracting tourists, business and people wanting to live close to such a landmark.
Reclaiming the City sounds in this context like trying to use old frameworks and outdated thinking for a future which should be so different – redress should happen in creating those new spaces which are attractive and conductive to people from all skin colours.
Creating several hubs will lead automatically and naturally to a diversity in population without creating costly court actions, hurt emotions and old pattern thinking.
Young activists should work together with modern city plans to avoid learning from those who don’t want to leave their backwards turned thought motifs.
If not the yearning for a better future the practicality and common sense demanded by the Covid-19 pandemic should guide any further city development: More hubs, more space to live and work stretched out instead of densified areas just for the sake of an unjust and ugly history. Reclaiming means in this context not to create a mirror of the past, but space to live and strive for a just world giving redress to those who live now. And to ensure equality and a life to the fullest for all.

To have everywhere in the Greater City of Cape Town area the opportunity to live and work – this should be the aim of the game. And in following this aim the historic parts will change automatically as part of the whole.

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

Adding insult to hurt

Expected but still it feels like adding insult to the pain, many South Africans feel enduring lockdown day no 132 with no real plan provided to end the madness:
While millions of South Africans try to make ends meet the corruption frenzy of those connected and in government seems to climb new highs.
And to put salt in the wounds of society, the very same person being accused of fraud and corruption and – again with his family in the headlines for the wrong reasons –  Elias Sekgobelo “Ace” Magashule proclaims to the public after a NEC (National Executive Committee) meeting of the ruling ANC party, that the fight against corruption has priority and that the newest PPE scandals has “outraged and deeply embarrassed” the very party whose members are at the forefront of these acts. Stealing and benefiting from the Covid-19 crisis will certainly be one of the low-points of South African politics looking back in years to come.

Knowing the deeply engrained gratitude of those having lived through apartheid times which determines their voting attitude may facts be whatever they are; but also seeing the eroding of trust with those who are not either ideological blind sided or benefiting from the corrupt system, it remains seen which way South Africa will walk in the near and not so near future. Covid-19 has brought on the table all the shortcomings of the new South Africa. It can shatter the dreams of many or be a point of introspective reflection. It can be a time of grace in all the disgracefulness of current behaviour but for this to happen it needs churches and religious communities to lead the way and to create the space. But also on this front there is not really a lot visible right now.

Being a time before local election makes all this even more difficult as the Western Province can surely give witness to; the coordinated and almost sophisticated land invasions and the way, national government appears to deal with the province not under their rule but showing excellence in handling the crisis against all odds complicates things at times. The hospitality industry as well as the wine industry can vouch for this too.

So where from here?
I guess nobody really knows – the secrecy of the so-called National Covid-19 Command Council, the sheer inability of the ruling party in South Africa to find peace amongst themselves and renew, the plight of ordinary people being often ignored and kept dependent on hand-outs; and the general state of affairs of the surrounding countries, not to mention the geopolitical disturbances on the world stage will continue to challenge each and everybody in different ways. May the challenges become opportunities for the better…  Are we not called: Cape of Good Hope?

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

Elections reflection…

It is done: The South African election has been concluded and the observers are left with quite bias feelings. On one hand the election was generally free and fair and without major glitches. Also violence was not prominently to be seen during the day. The participation was very low: only 65.98% of possible voters took the chance to cast their vote – it seems that especially young people who were very vocal on social media forgot to register for the election day.
Looking purely from the outside the result is astonishing: The ruling party, having majored in the last years in corruption, state capture, dishonesty and simply stealing from the poor were again rewarded with leading the government. More than 10 million South African, mainly in rural areas where service delivery has collapsed or is in the progress of collapsing have voted for those responsible. Millions of grant receiver have still not understood that the grants are not given by the ANC but government. The myth of the liberation movement being the only capable party to lead South African and some major strategic mistakes of the official opposition party have surely also contributed to the result as has the lack of education in most regions of South Africa.  And politicians clearly guilty and contributors to state capture are still in the driving seats of the organization which is split to the core between those who have realized that things have to change and those who want to continue plunder without any sign of guilt or conscience.

If history will repeat itself then this election result confirms that a liberation movement turned political party will continue to govern till the majority of liberated are left with nothing while those in power reap what they can to enrich themselves. South Africa was told it is special, having Madiba magic in the beginning of the new democracy – it is working hard in the moment to dispel this myth.
Listening to SC of the ANC Ace Magashule who insists that only the party counts and not individuals and that MP’s are bound to the party but not their conscience it shows that there is no learning curve or new insight yet which could rescue the ANC on the long run – and with it South Africa.

Additional concern is that almost 2 million people voted for a man with fascist tendencies and a party which exploits the hopes of those unemployed and uneducated. The “Idi Amin in the making” Julius Malema showed stronger support in the most poor parts of South Africa – where people did not have anything to lose anymore.

The DA remained in power in the Western Province and this is indeed a blessing as the Western Province is doing much better as other provinces as shown by the congratulatory letter of the national parliament to Helen Zille, the outgoing premier, now to be replaced by Alan Winde. But their supporter base has lost votes to other parties – Musi Maimane is a very young leader and surely he would need more matured advisers not bound to party politics. Building a race-blind party is in the current environment a challenge and it will remain one for the foreseeable future.

Education, health and land reform as well as economical stimulus are the buzz words of the future deciding on the future of South Africa – together with the question who will lead the healing process of society and turning the tide of racism, which showed its ugly head again and again during election time. I hope and wish that churches will be much more prominent in this field – wouldn’t it be wonderful if churches, mosques and synagogues would become places of story telling, real listening and healing.

And obviously decisive will also be whether state capture can be ended and those responsible having their day in court. Having politicians involved campaigning for the party in the last weeks was indeed a pain in the neck and seeing some of them being in charge of the ruling party remains a disgrace and a big question mark on the way forward. Coming clean is never easy – but the only way to move on and develop in the right direction.

May we see the wonder that those elected to the new national and provincial parliaments are not listening to people like Ace Magashule and others but using their conscience and their love to the country and their dedication towards the well being of society. We need honest brokers guided by the constitution and nothing else to have a chance. We need people who can and will jump over party lines to do what is right for the people of South Africa. We need another Madiba moment like in 2004 where all are pulling in the same direction and where hope and trust overcome obstacles  – South Africa still has a future if those in power act in their majority with responsibility and love for the country.

 

 

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

Drought and Water scares

Meanwhile it is almost known in every corner of the global village that the Western Cape is facing a severe drought and that Cape Town might be the first big city completely running out of water. Emotions are flaring high and accusations are flying into all directions: local government, the people of Cape Town, the system, the complicated spheres of government, national government – everybody is able to pick up his or her argument to blame others for the crisis.

I guess it is a typical scenario where half truth are used to cover up own faults – its human to pick what serves my argument:

Yes, it is correct that there was a severe drought for 3 years in a row – but since years there is talk of a desalination plant and done was really nothing.
Yes, it is correct that the water use of some people is unreasonably high – but you can’t expect that people realize the severity when you played your cards of counting down to day zero already last year and it did not happen
Yes it is correct that national government is obviously reluctant to assist an opposition governed province, but honestly, opposition took government officials so often to court in the last years but failed on this one badly.

So I would say that bad planing, bad coordination, bad politics and bad habits here joined hands to get to the situation as is in the moment. Responsibility lies with government officials to  lead the way out of crisis – and there is the next problem: with all the finger-pointing and in-fights there is no real leadership – dealing with citizens like school kids does not help nor creating a situation which will lead to chaos and anarchy and a breakdown of public life as we know it.

The way the water crisis is handled is a dis-service to the people of Cape Town, but also South Africa – it damages not only the reputation but the possibilities to create a better life for all – some soul-searching paired with honesty and fairness to all concerned would assist in getting the situation back on track.  Communication must improve – watching for example Xanthea Limberg as  mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy talking about the situation feels like a detached person taking about a minor problem of technical nature. “Empathy” is the missing word and emotion.

And there is more to say: If the City of Cape Town would have a proper and transparent plan to overcome the situation people would be more willing to engage. For example the drought charge now given up on: If there would be a plan to build a proper desalination plant – given the public plans, figures and timelines with a projected outcome I am sure the support for such a charge would have been overwhelmingly positive. People must see and feel that their money is working for some good in the future. Saying that such a charge makes up for lost revenue because people saved water was quite bad and those who do the marketing of such communication should be fired on the spot.

Millions of people queuing for water every day – no running toilets in office buildings and restaurants – sanitation and health issues as a feasible threat, closing temporarily primary health care facilities as per existing plans – the list is long and time to avoid it is short – instead of continuous finger-pointing I would like to see all responsible to get to work – reflection can come later when there is the appropriate time. Definitely some lessons to learn for the new democracy of South Africa and it’s functioning in real life experience.

And lets be clear: the lack of proper planing and maintenance in the area of water and sanitation also from other provinces and national government  together with climate change will South Africa hit hard if not immediate steps are done to avoid more disaster scenarios in South Africa. And to be honest: as a priest I also miss the vocal and leading voice of churches and interfaith communities: water and access to water is a human right – and yes, one could hear some voices here and there, but not the swell of guiding concerns needed in such a situation.

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

Compliments of the Season

*
Joy
Love
Peace
Family
Laughter
Together
Memories

Frohe Weihnacht – Merry Christmas – Compliments of the Season – Feilz Navidad –
Joyeux noel – Feliz Natal – Sung Tan Chuk Ha – Gledileg Jol – Meri Kirihimete

and a blessed & successful 2018 full of joy and wonders

Fr Stefan

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Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, Center of Healing, chaplain, chaplain to sea, General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, HOPE Cape Town USA, HOPE Gala Dresden, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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