Friday, February 13, 2015

My SONA Reflections

It was actually about leadership tonight.
Our country is in a crisis, and the question is, who will raise their hands to lead the way - to steer the ship? Of course, you are correct to point is that there were a few hands raised tonight at what was promised to be the State of the Nation (SONA) address. But my question remains - who will raise their hands to lead the way?

Whilst, I am encouraged by the EFF for cutting to the chase and the fog of parliamentary niceties. They are well-trained in the art of cashing in on opportunities - the EFF is not simply playing around or acting on emotion, as some would think. One need to give them credit for their ability to catch the eye and play the role of the voices of the masses. They know that symbolism and public display of militancy is the language that the masses understand. Look at the way communities are fighting their way through to the attention of local municipalities. And remember, most of them come from the ANC Youth League! One however has to remember that, taking on this kind of collective persona comes with a price. Whether they would like to hear this or not, Andile Mngxitama's vilification and violent gagging will come to haunt them. This kind of internal messiness is however part of a collective who consciously wants to be "revolutionary". Further, given the fact that many of them remains, deeply influenced by the ANC's political culture of materialism and no tolerance for dissent, the question is for how long they will be able to uphold the facade of a deep solidarity with the working class, the masses. Tonight however, they did raise their hands as the champions of the masses - unafraid of the power of the ANC elites, they kept on insisting to be heard. Also, they did their home-work. Baleka Mbete was out of her depth when they cited the different rules from the book. The violent clashes with security and banning were part of the plan, from the beginning. They want to stir things out in the streets. Whether this political strategy will take us beyond what we had the last 300 years is of course, another question.

But then there was also the DA's parliamentary leader, the honourable Mr Maimane. I was impressed with his leadership. First he led the battle against the jamming of mobile devices and then picking up the opportunity when it surfaced that the police was part of the squad protecting the king. By the way who amongst the inner-circle of Zuma thought of this tactic of jamming the signals of mobile devises? Of course, the intention was to censure what was about to happen, because they anticipated an ugly (violent) confrontation. Back to Maimane. One should give him credit for leading these two battles. It unsettled Mbete and paved the way for what was to come. And they won those rounds!
In a sense, it was here that I felt that Maimane came out more ... what is the word that I am looking for .... presidential, then Malema. At least this is my impression from this event. One the other hand, however, I'm still not yet convinced that he is speaking and thinking for himself. Let's leave the rhetoric of "collective leadership" and "synergy" aside for now - we need leaders who are thinkers, strategically and tactically, they lead their troops on different (unforeseen) terrains as they battle. Further, whilst the DA comes with key expertise and a wealth of political and economic experience, they have not yet convinced the "masses", that they carry their dreams on their hearts. Maimane remains to be seen as some-one who is controlled from some-where else, perhaps the ones (in the dark) who holds the purse. Only time will tell.

This leaves me with Msholozi. I don't know what to say really. This character was there to behold the whole fracas and yet he walks up to the podium, stoically and cracks a joke. One the one hand, he didn't show any remorse for his (alleged) complicity in this (he cannot see anything wrong in it), on the other hand, even at a symbolic level, he didn't even say something presidential like,  "Friends, what we have seen tonight is a tragedy, the tragic consequence of political leadership gone awry - but that should not derail us, we are here to work" Or something like this .... It was as if he was not there; he didn't feel the depth of dismay at the way the sacred institution of parliament was damaged, on a symbolic level; he simply couldn't soak in the emotion of a nation and tell us that everything will be fine.
Of course, there is reason for his alienation - he caused this mess. What is worse, he is not willing to own up to this. Sadly, this is where I have to leave it. This is what we have. The less I say about Mbete or "die kwaai skooljuffrou"[the harsh schoolteacher], Thandi Modise, the better. They were not prepared to be able to respond to what EFF and the DA was presenting to them - there was no wisdom, no compassion shown. And then, because they knew they had the strong men ready, they sent in the thugs to "clean" out the house. That was weak. It reminds me of this big bully on the school-yard, who fails all his tests and then tears into us during break. It was actually so sad.

But what remains for us is to see how Malema, Maimane and Msholozi responds to the current crisis. My cards, I will keep close to my chest, but who knows, maybe we might be surprised with the turn of events, or (over the long haul) how things will unfold ... it remains a long walk ...  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The State of our Nation.

The State of the Nation address is on every-one's lips. Whether we will be able to listen to it - or understand it, is another question. But let's not be nasty. Most commentators and "religious leaders" want us to be nice today. The "religious leaders" even prayed against, the "spirit of division" in parliament.

I'm not so sure that Juju and his red brigade, understand, or want to understand these niceties. For them, it is an opportunity to grab the attention of the media. After all, all publicity is good publicity.
However, one need to ask the question what would be the best way to serve the interest of poor communities. Would it serve the interests and change the desperate situations of communities, terrorized by violent gangs and viscous druglords, or who don't have any source of income, communities who have been left behind, due to incompetent local government officials, that we also put on our red overalls and shout (with everything in us), "PAY BACK THE MONEY, PAY BACK THE MONEY!!!" (or any other appropriate slogan)?

I wonder. It seems to me that even Juju and his clones, have not yet convinced me that they would be able to develop the kind of engineers, town planners, architects or financial planners, etc. to run and make this country (all our communities) thrive. We don't need more political theatrics, or a new mob of looters - what our communities need is leadership, the ability to drive and implement a vision to pull together the finest, toughest and sharpest minds, in the quest to solve the most challenging of challenges that we face. This is an inspirational challenge, but also, it calls for periods of long-term silent, lonely and yes, even boring slogging, to create a sustainable future. So, at least this observer, citizen, patriot is not yet convinced that the red brigade can provide this, let alone the current lot sitting in cabinet or the state departments. 

The current state of our nation is experienced in local communities - out there in the dark; in the pit latrines, where our toddlers drown; in the bushes close to the "lollie lounge" where our young girls are raped and mutilated, in our communities where poor people turn on each other - ripping ourselves apart. These chilling realities are symptoms, which calls for a deeper, slow, albeit urgent work - not for another gang of clowns, who can sing and dance, as the only qualification to run a modern state.
I am hopeful that this country has the character and abilities to rise above the moment. We can still change things, but then the state of our nation need to be not only on our lips, but also pressing upon our hearts, and captivating our minds and hands, as we work towards the peaceful, non-racial, non-sexist nation, which our constitution dreams of. We have the state of our nation, in our hands - what are we going to do with it? 

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.