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

Time to change tune

Listening to Police Minister Cele about non-deserving South Africans, because they don’t behave; sitting through announcements by Dlamini-Zuma feeling a deja-vu of your primary school and absorbing the somehow wicked logic of Patel:
South Africans have to endure at the moment a lot of moments where the good-will of giving time for government to prepare for an influx of Covid-19 cases vanishes with raised speed.
The outcry of politicians following the first 3 hours, where South Africans were allowed out for exercising in the early hours of May first were remarkable. Potentially 58 Million are allowed after 5 weeks of lockdown to walk and jog from 6 to 9 am – parks and beaches are still closed to the public – and those, who anyhow can walk around as it pleases them, are upset about the liberty taken to use the time.
The Western Province government with Premier Alan Winde rightly pointed out that common sense was missing looking at the directive forcing those millions to go out in the dark hours of the morning to get some fresh air.

I have written about the shadows of the past, haunting our present existence, and they explain some of what is happening. Seeing the long queues of people flocking sometimes in the thousands to receive a food parcel is a sign how desperate people are. While physical distancing is in such cases not an option it underlines the situation most South Africans are in at the moment: hungry, without income, depending on hand-outs of NGO’s and governmental agencies.  The pictures we see speak volumes of the dignity lost even more than before the crisis.

Looking at all of this and the mechanisms driving the process there is a real danger that the rule of democracy and its values are eroded. Applying BEE on state assistance, even if after the court decision legally permissible, is such a sign that the very values of the new democratic South Africa has no say any more in the times of need. South Africa indeed has now the taint of being unique in denying assistance based on race. 7 million jobs will be gone if the predictions are correct – and still: ideology trumps any concern for job conservation. This is bad news going forward and it shows lip-service of many politicians when they proclaim that South Africa is for all South Africans.

It is time to change tune: it must be clear that in the new South Africa every person, whose livelihood is in danger,  is eligible for governmental support. And instead of threats and petty rules people should be encouraged to prepare and think of opening up the economy again with jobs saved and new ones created. Instead of scare tactics we need encouragement  and a light at the end of the tunnel, instead of numbers throwing around and unclear data resources we need more transparency and honesty.
The people of South Africa gave government five weeks to prepare for climbing numbers of infections – now is the time to show that they used the time wisely besides fighting cigarettes, alcohol and roasted chickens.

Climbing numbers of infections – often touted by newspaper headlines and politicians as the most important information of the day – are not really news as this is how a pandemic works. The real questions are: How high is the ratio of infection? How many of the infected really need special care? How many tests are done and are we able to identify clusters? I think the Western Cape is on the right track here – testing and catching those in contact with an infected person is the key for opening the economy and providing so for those in need of work and income.

Changing the tune means to stop handing out food parcels and degrading the dignity of people but opening up work spaces again with the necessary prudence – but also knowing, that this virus will stay with us for the years to come – and holding off till the pandemic is gone is simply not an option.
Changing the tune means to take people with you as a politician and not to treat them like school-kids or stupid youngsters. Transparency and honesty is the key – as long as people sense politics behind decisions the goodwill of people will vanish into thin air.
It is not the time for ideology, racism or scoring points – its time for decency, humanity and hard work for the so often quoted “our people”.

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

And the question is…

South-Africa-question“What has this all to do with your work?” – I was asked recently discussing my blog and the person questioning me noticed the hardly not to notice political overtone of the last blog entries.
The answer is very simple: the  roller coaster on the political scene influences together with the water scare and now the polony  scandal the psyche of the people around us – the madness of state capture, the midnight changes in cabinet, the economic meltdown of South Africa in the last years resulted in more food-insecurity, in more unemployment, in more emptiness, in more loss of perspective as society. Students were encouraged to demand fee-free education which is in itself a non-sense, as there is nothing for free and the result of the reckless announcement of former President Jacob Zuma of the implementation of for said “free”   education means now in return an increase in VAT and again, the poor have to carry the biggest burden.
The unstable politics of the last years have taken a toll in all spheres of society and the divided ruling party, warming up to the party of the Gucci revolutionary “Commander in Chaos” with his only hardly veiled racism and power hunger balances the hope of a better future with the new president again negatively.

Add in the Western Province the serious threat of taps running dry – it all creates a situation where people are visibly on edge and less inclined to think rational and with measure.

HOPE Cape Town developed since years already a second arm of service which aims to assist those in need not only in the medical field, but also tries to remedy social woes of troubled South African families: poverty, lack of education, early childhood development and deficits in the framework of broken communities – read drugs, alcoholism, broken families, gangs, violence, corruption – has to be tackled simultaneously with any medical intervention to be successful.
This social services and assistance arm will be further developed – a part-time social worker and an occupational therapist are at the core of those developments working hand in hand with the doctors and the social system of the state – latter unfortunately a broken system with gaps hurting and killing children as a result.

The pain giving birth to a new and democratic South Africa with all the up’s and down’s are impacting in many practical terms the work of NGO’s like ours. Strikes and service delivery protests are damaging not only infrastructure but people engaged in those activities often forget their medication, their doctor’s appointment or even to put food on the table for the family. Corruption on all levels of society makes life more expensive for those anyhow struggling to make ends meet – and if delivery of state services are chaotic it is indeed difficult to get the papers needed for e.g. registering somebody into school.

And people who have nothing to lose anymore are obviously vulnerable to propaganda and ideology which wouldn’t make sense if one would have the time and the education to ponder what is often told from politicians in public.

The world is in the moment globally a bit in turmoil, and working in the non-profit part of it means to be vigilant and vocal for all those who have no voice or are somehow silenced by food parcels and t-shirts or a free meal – popular methods of those wanting to remain in power here in South Africa.

 

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

Two hearts are beating…

Indeed there are several sentiments to be felt while watching the events unfolding in South Africa.
A first is clearly the relief that President Zuma has past his due date and stepped down. It was more than time to go for him – and there is the hope that all his cronies and yeah-Sayers will follow in the next couple of days.
But honesty is owed the observation that the man now in power firstly did not become rich only through hard work but using the often unjust and abused system of BEE and secondly stood by and defended the indefensible – praising a corrupt president as an outstanding leader. Guilt by association is punishable in many countries and South Africa has suffered big times because of it. The poor, the marginalized, those without voice have been sidelined but used as voting stock by handing out food parcels,T-shirts and empty promises before election. Racism was fostered and used as a political tool and most of them jumping ship now and switching allegiance have fueled the fire of social dissent for years abusing their office. And lets not forget: statecapture would have continued if and when not brave journalists and parts of civil society went the extra mile to bring it into the open painstakingly.

It is a mammoth task lying ahead for this man, almost a sort of penance for Ramaphosa and his political allies to either succeed in changing course dramatically or failing the country completely. Odds are against them, as history shows little support for the hope that a liberation movement turns into a political party without destroying most what was fought for in years. But hope dies last and therefore for those with goodwill there can only be one way forward to support the efforts made by the hopefully completely changed cabinet to indeed start serving the people of South Africa again in a decent, honest and passionate manner. The dream of a rainbow nation as the beacon of hope for Africa and the world has is not completely dead but has survived alas on its last breath waiting to be resuscitated and brought to the beauty of times long gone. It will take a long time to cleanse the rot of the last 9 years and to convince even the small little rural civil servant that nepotism and corruption is a thing of the past – that cadre deployment has come to an end and entitlement has ceased to be at the forefront of developments.
Hard work, honesty, diligence and a sense of duty are the ingredients of the new beginning. Then the two hearts beating in the chest are coming together and making place to reconnect to the ones around so that this nation rise to the occasion with one big beating heart living what our beautiful constitution has promised for its people a long time ago.

 

Filed under: Politics and Society, Reflection, South Africa, , , , , , , ,

Prayers needed! Really?

It seems that prayers are in high demand in our days:
In South Africa ANC representatives are making the round in churches and asking for prayers to get their house in order.
In the USA politicians are praying for the victims of Las Vegas and on Facebook and social media the call for prayers is all over, from Orlando to Paris and now back in the USA we are called to pray again. Prayers are needed indeed when one sees the state of affairs in many parts of the world, when one notices the despair of people and the craziness of terror and politics and sometimes it seems terror and politics are exchangeable in the sense that people are hurt, lives cut short and common sense buried.

Maybe it is time to mention that prayers without the appropriate action will fail to do anything good except comforting those trying to  escape responsibility. Contemplation and action, prayer and deeds are interlinked as human mankind is interlinked in the spirit of Ubuntu. Sending good thoughts only work when there is the reflection what I can do to change a situation.
We could pray for hours for the well-being of the ANC here in South Africa – as long as those in charge allow for corruption, state-capture and stealing in their own midst without acting against the perpetrators no prayer will heal this situation. We can pray for hours for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting but as long as those in charge in the USA refuse to take action against the gun lobby being able to do business as usual those prayers are empty and the expression of sympathies a blunt lie.

And it is not only those who are in office – those who have elected people into office are equally guilty if they only pray instead of making sure that those voted in power are doing their work correctly and making responsible decisions. No one, not even the ANC in South Africa has a privilege to be in power – and Jesus might come earlier than expected to Mr Zuma (my South African friends will know…)  – all those in higher offices are there for a time and with a responsibility. And in a democracy the power lies with the people.

Prayer can bolster this responsibility, prayer is making this responsibility more visible as it connects to the divine, to the source of humanity and to the foundation of why we have rules and regulations and a political and social system with certain values and ethics. It is not a fix for failures, the divine does not pop in to plaster over ignorance. But prayer can be the beginning of redemption and turning around a situation. It is certainly as a connection to all beginnings a means to reflect, if necessary repent and try to do better.
Let’s hope that is meant when politicians ask for prayers or pray themselves in the public space and in front of TV cameras. And that people asking for prayers on social media also turn into themselves to look where their responsibility lies besides sharing a call for prayers.

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

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