Monday, March 21, 2016

Hope as a basis for dialogue?

Yesterday a friend remarked that he was surprised at my outspoken activism re. the current South African political dynamics. My response was that my grandchildren should one day know for sure that I spoke out when we were in danger of slipping away from the values that our struggle was about. I'm doing it for their future. For me dialogue is, among other things, about keeping hope alive in a sea of negativity and pessimism.

Another friend admonished me recently when I expressed the hope that the publication of the report about the Walter Rodney assassination in Guyana would open up new dialogue. He said "hope is not a strategy". He was right, hope is not a strategy, but without hope no strategy will be pursued with energy. Hope is the beginning of a strategy.

Rebecca Solnit writes
"’s important to emphasize that hope is only a beginning; it’s not a substitute for action, only a basis for it...Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone."
I refuse to let go of hope and when I die one day, my hope will live on in my children and grandchildren. We are all children of hope.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

My reasons why the ANC must recall President Jacob Zuma

The ANC National Executive Meeting this weekend may be a watershed moment, but I'm not too optimistic that we'll see a major push to recall Zuma or that the ANC will decisively regenerate itself. The Gupta saga and revelations about state capture are a side-show. For me the real issue is that the governing party is not walking the talk. It says one thing and then in practice they do the opposite. 
The ANC and other political parties should measure their performance against standards that they have been promoting themselves. These standards, which are summarised in the vision statement in the National Development Plan, are my reasons why I want to see a complete overhaul of the ruling party. This has to include the stepping aside of Number #1, who is showing no signs of being able or willing to steer us towards this vision. 
Think about the following excerpt and tell me whether you think we are remotely close to treading a new path: 
“We all assist the institutions we have creatively redesigned to meet our varied needs; we reach out across communities to strengthen our resolve to live with honesty, to be set against corruption and dehumanising actions.
We have made the rules by which we want ourselves to live:
  • We hold the Constitution of our country as the covenant guide to a fair society
  • Since 1994 we’ve changed our laws to obey our Constitution
  • Now we live it: justice rules us, because just laws make community possible
  • The law enables us to live together fulfilling our mutual obligations and responsibilities in the shared public spaces of our mutual affiliation.
"We know that those to whom we have given the privilege to govern our land, do so on our behalf and for the benefit of all the people.
Government begins in the home, grows into the community, expands towards the city, flares toward the province, and engulfs the entire land.
We know our leaders as we have elected them and pledged them into office:
  • They are wise in the use of our wealth
  • Wise in knowing and understanding our wishes and needs
  • Wise in expecting us to express ourselves to them in any appropriate manner we have agreed to be allowable
  • Wise in not silencing those who criticise, but enable them, through our rules of engagement, to be even more rigorous in supporting a just society.
Our leaders’ wisdom is ours, because we sense our wisdom in theirs.
  • They do more than respond to us:
  • They bring new thoughts and ideas
  • They share with us what they think
  • They inspire us, because we then seek to aspire with them
  • With them we renew our world continuously.
But our gift of leaders extends far beyond politics. We have them in abundance in every avenue of life.
We have come far with our cultural, religious, and ancestral traditions. Contemporary citizens that we are, we are conscious of the intimate relationships between tradition and change.
We say to one another: I cannot be without you, without you this South African community is an incomplete community, without one single person, without one single group, without the region or the continent, we are not the best that we can be.
We love the land.
We greet one another again. 
We enjoy being visited. 
We are courteous and curious. 
We love arguing, we debate fiercely, we contest ceaselessly. 
We solve our differences through discussion. 
We refrain from being cruel, demeaning or hurtful in disagreement. 
We feel we belong. 
We celebrate all the differences among us.
We are not imprisoned by the roles ascribed to us...
The welfare of each of us is the welfare of all. Everybody lives longer. We experience fulfilment in life, living it in the successful society we are creating.” 
The people that give me hope that this vision may come alive are definitely not the political parties or their leaders. Watching parliamentarians in action is like standing outside the fence of a pre-school, watching children bullying and fighting each other and being helpless to intervene. If you need the courts to tell the speaker to apply the law, and the constitutional court becomes the place where the president pleads for clemency as to not being put in a situation that could lead to impeachment, and when the leader of the opposition is so rude that he is asked to leave the house, it’s time for citizens to step forward and demand from elected leaders to apply higher standards or step aside. 
Propagating a vision without living that vision is betrayal. That is why #ZumaMustFall. Make way for ethical and younger leaders to step forward.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The thirsty politician

This is a true story about a community's response to a politician's empty promises.

It was election time. A politician was campaigning in a very remote and dry area of South Sudan.

Photo credit: UN OCHA
If you vote for me
I will make sure that every village will have a bore hole, he promised villagers.  For many women and children who had to walk two hours to the nearest river to fetch water this was news from heaven. Everyone agreed to vote for him.

The first time they saw him again, was four years later when he came to campaign again for the next election.

He told the people that there was no money to drill bore holes, but he would make sure that they would get water if they voted for him again.

A woman invited him to her house and offered him the locally brewed drink. This drink, as everyone in that culture would know, was usually served together with a separate water container. It was simply impossible to drink the brew without diluting it with water, The politician knew that very well and received the drink as the guest of honour.

The hosts left the politicians with the single pot of brew, but no water. It was a very hot day and the politician became very thirsty.

He called a child and asked her to ask the host to bring water so that he could dilute the brew.

The host came in and said to the politician: As you know, since you did not fulfill your promise, we unfortunately don't have any water to offer you.

The politician slipped out quietly through the back door and was never seen in the village again.