Thursday, July 31, 2014

Die stem van Taegrin roep tot ons.

Die grusame dood van die vierjarige Taegrin Morris het ons almal se harte geruk. Ek wil nou nie eers praat van die verkragting van kinders hier in ons land, of van kinders wat in geweldadige konflikte kanonvleis word nie. Madiba het op ’n stadium by die loodsing van sy Nelson Mandela Kinderfonds in 1996 gesê, dat die mees tasbare wyse waarop iets van ons siele sigbaar word, is die wyse waarop ons kinders hanteer en dat, soos wat ons ‘n nuwe Suid Afrika bou, kinders een van ons hoogste prioriteite moet wees. Dis duidelik – die nuwe Suid Afrika waarvan hy hier praat en droom, bestaan nie vir die Morris familie of die gemeenskap van Reigerpark nie. Kinders se lewens is goedkoop.



’n Diep, geestelike vraag is indaad: hoe ernstig is ons oor die veiligheid en ontwikkeling van ons kinders? Dit lyk soms vir my asof sommige mense kinders bloot sien as die passiewe voorwerpe van vermaak. Dit klink seker baie verskriklik. An tog, kyk maar net hoe hulle rondgedra en gewys word, byna as ons trofees, of ons hou hulle bloot besig of “van die strate af”. Geloofsgroepe, wat so dink, ontwikkel dan ook programme om die kinders met ’n paar Bybelversies te “red”. Wat die groepe eintlik wil doen, is bloot om die kinders te gebruik om hul eie ego’s te streel. Die werklikheid is egter baie meer kompleks.

As mens egter Madiba se hele toespraak lees dan kom mens agter dat sy perspektief gaan van die veronderstelling uit dat die mishandeling van kinders ’n langer pad aankom. Die kaper wat harteloos wegjaag en die seuntjie saamsleep, is op ’n bepaalde manier gevorm in ’n wêreld waar kinders weggooibaar word. Reeds in 1989 identifiseer die verslag van die tweede Carnegie ondersoek na armoede en ontwikkeling in Suider-Afrika, kinders as een van die kategorieë van mense wat die mees kwesbaar is in die streek. Die navorsers praat dan van die “wasting of children” [vernieling of verwoesting van kinders]. Vir hulle ook, moet kinders die primêre teikengroep wees in alle ontwikkelingsstrategieë. Hoe vêr het ons as land gekom in hierdie geestelike roeping? Is dit genoeg vir die kinders in gemeenskappe soos Reigerpark se beveiliging en ontwikkeling, dat politici bloot op feesdae (of krisistye) opdaag, toesprake afsteek en danspassies uitvoer? Ek dink egter dit gaan eerder oor die harde en soms frustrerende werk deur die skep van volhoubare inkomste vir ouers, die erkenning en ondersteuning van hul kapasiteit om hul eie keuses te maak, maar ook, die erkenning van die waardigheid van ons kinders, in alle gemeenskappe.

Ons kan egter nie vir die regering wag nie. Ouers, opvoeders, leerders, geloofsgemeenskappe, alle professies, selfs sporthelde en vermaaklikheidsterre kan hande vat om ons gemeenskappe nie bloot kinderveilig te maak nie, maar ook kindervriendelik. In die opsig word kinders deel van ons drome oor ’n heel en geseënde Suid Afrika. Is dit nie ’n ander lees van die Bybel wat ons oë oopmaak dat kinders gesien kan word as ‘n teken van seën, dat hulle die gemeenskap kan leer, maar ook, dat hulle die goddelike teenwoordigheid hier in die wêreld ’n werklikheid kan maak. Hoe ons kinders hanteer sê dus beslis iets van ons siele.

Kindervriendelike dorpe en stede verg egter moed, maar dit verg ook verbeeling. Dit vra moed om die kind tussen ons te laat staan en die fokus te maak van ons politiek, ons ekonomie en ons gemeenskapslewe. Dit verg ’n prysgawe van mag wat gebaseer is op fisieke geweld of manipulasie. Dit vra ook verbeelding. Ons droom weer oor huise waar kinders lag en speel; van strate en parkies waar ons tot laat in die nag kuier; van stemmetjies wat ons harte weer warm maak om ’n verskil te maak. 
('n Geredigeerde weergawe van hierdie post is in Die Beeld van 30 Julie 2014, gepubliseer-RWN)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Edge of Prophecy.

The challenge that our communities struggle with is complex. Often church people, even we as leaders, succumb to a soft minded approach, which ease people into or in our organisations. Our ultimate aim (with this strategy) is ultimately to grow the numbers - lift my position on the ladder and everyone is happy. Its a win-win situation. Recently I participated at the Transatlantic Roundtable on Race and Religion.  One of the themes that surfaced time and time again during this roundtable, was the lack of social consciousness and prophetic edge of faith communities, in the SA and USA context especially. So, the question is what are we to do in this kind of context?
I would not succumb to the temptation to offer easy answers, in others words, quick populist fixes for complex challenges. However, I would want to propose that we start by asking those awkward questions about the "lack of social consciousness" and the current eroding of the witness of faith communities. My question would be whether the so-called prophetic role of church "in the struggle" was really what populists would want us to believe? Was it not merely key individuals who drove this "prophetic witness" or perhaps it was Synodal meetings or ecumenical meetings who issued papers? Did the local faith communities join the struggle and or were they transformed into radical alternative spaces, where social justice issues were confronted. I wonder. Perhaps, what we see today (as lamented at the Roundtable) was merely the consequence of these key individuals who "moved on". They are now in the plush seats (as they always dreamed of) and the "papers" of the meetings has become simply that - papers.
In the mean time, there's a struggle going on, outside. This struggle is illogical, not making sense in terms of the well-known frameworks of the time; it subverts these frameworks and turns them into spaces where no-one has ever been, where maps doesn't exist. That is where perhaps the most exciting things are happening. Its the edge...

Friday, May 09, 2014

The Post-Election Hangover.


As South Africans we can be proud of the elections and the way it has been managed. Yes, there is no such thing as a perfect election, but it was most certainly credible, free and fair. If we have been hoodwinked, then well, we have to carry the responsibility for that. As a country we get the government, we deserve.

Of course, we have some very exciting possibilities and some disappointments. There were some fascinating developments with regards to some of our most cherished ideologies, like Black Consciousness and Pan-Africanism, which calls for a fundamental rethinking or what my colleague Derrick Mashau, would call "re-alignment of politics". It would seem, at this stage that those parties that consciously carried this legacy, will not be in parliament. This will be the most interesting development after the elections.

A fascinating development is what some have called, the "new kid on the block", but the surge of EFF say something about the kind of unresolved issues within the ruling elite. They (the issues and the people) are not that "new".  One would have to take account of the reality that indeed, whilst the ANC had some serious challenges, all of it, whether we call it, the "ANC Youth League's fall-out with No 1", the "service-delivery protests" or "spoil your vote", "Waterkloof-Gate", "Vavi-Suspension" "Nkandla-Gate", etc.; they remain an internal squabble. The ANC, as a broad tradition, now occupies a very broad political space, left, right and centre and has effectively destroyed all external threats. It remains to be seen what these formation will do in response to this.

Overall, however, I would hope that we remain vigilant and keep up making our noises heard.
       

Monday, February 24, 2014

Welcome to the (Un) Free state!

Ag no man-not the Freestate (and racism) again! I read a piece by Prof Jonathan Jansen about a recent attack by white youngsters on blacks. Of course, Prof Jansen (again) downplayed the vicious attack. It is simply the stupidity of a very small bunch of idiots. It might be so, if you play along with his numbers game, but there is something more here. These violent bigots are not stupid-up to recently, they were students at the university where he is the rector.

Perhaps they were a bit ambitious and thought that, in trying to kill innocent people-because they are black, might also give them some space in the sun. They thought that perhaps they would also end up on the front page of the Afrikaans newspapers, like the Beeld - Rockstar killers like the Waterkloof-4. This is the story of how Afrikaner legends are born - they thought. Of course, I am trying to read their minds. That is stupid. Because, of course, they would deny it all. Something just came over them and they succumbed to "it". The devil made me do it.


I think Prof Jansen is naive about the deep network of institutions, myths, narratives and interests that not only sustain, but keep breeding these acts of race violence. What we have here, is simply a little smoke that escapes through the cracks in the surface. For the dearest professor (yes, the "volk" at Kovsies love him) to brush this smoke off as merely two silly idiots, plays into a definition of racism which is personal, individualistic, and which hope that if we only sing Kum-Ba-Yah, my Lord long enough, it will go away. It will not. The transformation of institutions, through clear equity targets, the conscious release of resources for the development of black academics and students, Prof, will meet fierce and sometimes violent, resistance. It will. Higher Education transformation will grow into a battlefield, where "bitter-einders" will fight to maintain and extend their ill-gotten gain. They are not a small innocuous minority that you can brush off. The Reitz-boys, the Skierlik skieter and of course the Waterkloof-killers are not the real faces of racism; these boys made the mistake of acting out what is planned and discussed in secret. All of us, black and white need to heed the call. There's something cooking and (actually) we should thank these two men for being honest about the reality.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Paying for our new Austrian "grootbaas" AKA #ETolls

I support the recent statement by our churchleaders on the e-tolls.

In my view, for most of us the problem is not to pay for quality roads and services. We are quite willing to pay and take responsibility. In fact, we do this everyday through VAT, the fuel levy and PAYE. That is the source of revenue for maintenance of our infrastructure and for caring for our people. We do this wholeheartedly.

We are however against the reckless wastage and the abuse of that money - for example for the building of royal palaces (read: Nkandla) and for maintenance of the opulent lifestyles of the current political elite and their cronies on the doorstep of dire poverty and failing health-care systems.

The current e-toll system, operated by an European-based multinational company, based in Austria, Kapsch Traffic-Com (KTC), is not about serving the needs of our country; its about lining the pockets of the shareholders of this company and their lapdogs here in SA.

So, I am not tagged and will not be bullied into paying for the enrichment of a new Austrian "grootbaas" of a government who has sold out her own people.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Egypt rocks it again.

At the beginning of this year I presented a keynote paper on the new youth (social) movements, as represented by waves of new activism in North Africa and the Middle East - and how it not only challenges powerful elites, but also our way of thinking about youth ministry research, globally. For me, these are signs of hope, signs of people rising up against authoritarian regimes and this will continue. I don't think that paper went down too well. Most members of that audience perhaps felt that this kind of talk and interest are not "youth ministry" proper - most wanted to hear what we can do to get youth back into their church programs (perhaps that's a bit harsh, I concede).
Well, these restless Africans are at it again and, even-though the military in ‎#Egyptare certainly not the long-term solution to Egypt 's deeper challenges, yet the removal of Morsi, is certainly a significant sign of the times. The quest for inclusive governance and communities, justice and peace for minorities and the vulnerable (the poor, women, gays and lesbians, religious minorities, etc.) continues.


Monday, July 01, 2013

Mandela's World Class.

Robin Sharma tweets, 'When you leave the "Crowd of Average and start playing at world-class, you'll face laughter and cynicism. Know that's the price of leadership.'

I don't know much of Sharma - whether he's a guru, prophet or world-class mountain biker. Perhaps he simply excelled in writing (these slogans), or perhaps he is like David Molapo - an excellent motivational preacher. That seems to be more or less what Wikipedia thinks of him.

In the world of Facebook and YouTube, I suppose all of this doesn't matter. What matters is that I 'like' (and RT'ed) that tweet. In my view, this kind of thing does happens. Perhaps this is the reason why most of us stay in the 'crowd'. That crowd. For most of us its a social thing - who wants to be the object of ridicule and cynicism anyway. So, perhaps it would be critical to look deeper into the psychology and validity of this tweet, but also, better to continue to ask the questions about the notion of 'world-class'. We must ask who decide, who sets the standards, but then also, does 'world-class' matter when you stand to risk your credibility? Or, should we ask the prior question: does 'laughter and cynicism' point to you loosing credibility? Why does 'world-class' matter?

It seems that at face level. Sharma equates 'leadership' with 'world-class'. Is that the thing ('world-class') that drives some-one like Nelson Mandela, specifically when he was standing up for justice and incarcerated for that? Surely there was something else. World approval or validation can be very precarious and dangerous. It may even degenerates into a popularity contest or becomes the product of savvy marketing. Beyonce is 'world-class' World-class can also mean dancing to the tunes of a First World market, so, if Apple's latest gadget sells, then its 'world-class'.

What would it mean when Nelson Mandela is called a world icon? Can we say, he is 'world-class'? Of course, he is not facing laughter and cynicism today (especially not today). He certainly faced many dangers and incarceration back in the days-indeed that is the price of leadership. The question then remains what happened the last few years of his life. Did he lose that leadership edge, as 'the world' started to idolize him-as he became a saint of sorts. If laughter and cynicism is the acid test, then he failed it- especially in a time when the political party he lead, degenerated into a den of robbers and haven for political ideologues. Or, perhaps he was way out their league. Perhaps, he consciously started to focus on all the 'charities' and mobilizing the world's stars to make philanthropy sexy. Perhaps this was a new 'world-class' he edged out-to bring us back to each other, to value compassion, care, and the concern for justice. So, in that world-class you will face ridicule and cynicism - so in this sense, Sharma has a point.