Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Moment to pray for Zimbabwe

I've agonised over our people in Zimbabwe. Suffering at the hands of a dilusional tyrant, blissfully unaware of what is going on around him, they need our support and prayers as we reflect on the ancient story of the birth of the Jesus, in face of tyrans, who think that this world belongs to them. Then I stumbled across this prayer.

It is a suggestion that this prayer be done at a point in the service where the intercessory prayers are normally offered. A moment of silence may be observed before the light is lit and then the prayer offered as suggested.

We light this candle in solidarity with the suffering people of Zimbabwe:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour …
God has shown His mercy on those who fear Him
From Generation to Generation
He has shown strength with His arm
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts
He has put down the mighty from their thrones
And exalted the lowly
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His Mercy
(Luke 1:46,48-54)

Plea for Zimbabwe
God of Compassion
We take this solemn moment to pray for the suffering people of Zimbabwe
There is greed and destruction by those that are in power in your land
They have mismanaged the economy and resources of your people and
Your people live in hunger in a country that used to produce plenty for all
God of Compassion, you weep with those who suffer from oppression and exclusion

I was hungry and you did not give me food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink

God of Justice
We express with you our anger at the evil committed by those who are power hungry
Your people live in fear from persecution by the militia and oppressors
Many have risk their lives daily running to other lands where they suffer from exclusion
Many more die in the prisons where they have been held for daring to speak
God of Justice, you always hear the cries of those who suffer innocently

I have seen the oppression of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows

God of Mercy
We pray for your mercy upon the children, the old, those disabled and the infirm
There are many who are dying from cholera, AIDS, and many other diseases
We pray for the mothers who are nursing their new born babies and
We lift to you the medical personnel that still remain in a health system that has collapsed
God of Mercy, hear the prayers of your children as we intercede for the innocent

Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you

God our Liberator
We await the day when the sun will rise again in Zimbabwe
When the oppressor will be dethroned and there be peace and reconciliation
May the clouds of freedom gather quickly and beckon all your scattered children all over
We pray that a day of homecoming for your children in the diaspora may be near
May your church be the herald of such a day when all shall again sing a new song

Let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream

Prepared by Moiseraele Prince Dibeela

Friday, December 19, 2008

Petition to Pres Motlanthe on Zimbabwe

Have you seen the petition to Pres Kgalema Motlanthe? This is another effort to find a political solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe.

It reads...
Zimbabwe's people are wracked by a spiralling cholera epidemic which has already killed over 1000 people according to the UN and is spreading into Botswana, South Africa and Mozambique(1), while Robert Mugabe's de facto regime clings to power, even denying there is a cholera crisis.(2)

Three months ago we looked on with hope as Robert Mugabe and the MDC signed a deal to solve the country's political crisis. Now the negotiations are all but broken and Zimbabweans are left with fear, disease and growing insecurity. Because of its influence and position, there is one government that could stop Zimbabwe's meltdown - South Africa. President Motlanthe has the power to secure a political solution, based on the will of the Zimbabwean people, behind which Africa could unite.

So we're launching an emergency campaign across Africa to urge President Motlanthe to step up and take immediate action. Zimbabweans are pleading for help and if we join our voices across the continent in solidarity, our appeal will be heard in Pretoria and could save lives in Harare. To show President Motlanthe that Africa is counting on him, we want to deliver this message with the support of thousands of African voices to the South African government and to run it as ads in South African newspapers -- so sign the petition now, and please spread it to friends and family:

Zimbabweans have been waiting desperately for security and stability since March this year, when the majority made their views clear. In recent weeks Zimbabweans' fight for survival has become more extreme -- Zimbabwe is paralysed with no government, the highest inflation in the world, widespread hunger, a lethal epidemic, and increasing violence against civilians.(3)

A few African leaders have condemned the situation, and Western leaders have made their views clear, but South Africa's ANC government has the greatest leverage over Zimbabwe's Zanu PF -- not least because of their historic alliance during the liberation struggles , strong economic ties, and its leadership in the South African Development Community. To date, talks have been left to former President Thabo Mbeki -- but his cautious mediation, accused of lacking neutrality, has come to a deadlock and lost public legitimacy. Now the region is offering humanitarian aid, but that is not enough-- now is the time for the governing ANC to act boldly and propose a better way forward.

Last week ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said: "What will we do to make Mugabe retire? We will persuade him."(4) The South African government knows it can do it. Let's give President Motlanthe a strong mandate from the African people to act in our name and save Zimbabwe. Sign our emergency petition now and spread it to friends and family.

The resolution of the breakdown of Zimbabwe is complex for many of us, but as one African leader has recently said: "People need to be held accountable for any wrong they do notwithstanding what good things they did in the past, including liberating the country". At this crucial time, let's stand together as African citizens and call on President Motlanthe to keep Zimbabwe's liberation alive.

The Message is simple:
To President Motlanthe of South Africa,
We, citizens from around Africa, urge your government to recognise that the Mbeki-led talks in Zimbabwe have failed, and we call on you to take the lead in finding an urgent political solution for Zimbabwe, to save lives and avert regional catastrophe. Africa urgently needs you to take the necessary steps to ensure that a government based on the will of the Zimbabwean people can be restored to Zimbabwe, and only this will ensure security and stability.

Thanks !

Justice for Rwanda, for Zimbabwe

Finally there is a glimmer of justice for the beautiful country and people of Rwanda. Having being brutally traumatised by the most evil incarnations imaginable, we can only hope that the conviction of Theoneste Bagosora, will further the convictions of other perpetrators. Apparantly he, the cabinet director of defence, took control of the country, in April '94, after the dubious plain crash of President Juvenal Habyarimana, who signed a peace deal in August '93.

Tribalism, is still rife in our continent. The Rwandian genocide of 1994, still haunts us, as we come face to face with the consequences of tribalism gone wrong, 'horrendiously wrong'. Although there has been some relief in the transition and rebuilding of the country, still the healing of memories, but more so the quest for justice, by the victims, need to remain a priority in the international work for justice and reconciliation. The current conflict in the Great Lakes region, to large degree, is a spill-over, the unpaid debt of this bit of history. The appointment of Dr Andre Karamaga, Rwanda, on 12 December 2008, as the General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches, is however another sign of hope. Maybe Dr Karamaga, maybe Rwanda, a small country in the centre of Africa, are to remind us of how incidious the evil of tribalism can crawl up on us and devour us.

Of course we need to ask, what could we have done better ? Maybe we could have spoken out in horror, at the building-up of the hostlities and the demonisation of 'the other', the tribal other, in the conflict in before 1994. Maybe we should have sided more deliberately with vulnerable minorities, maybe we should have done this or that... We did not.

Today, I fear, we have a situation with the same perilous build-up, the same ominous signs. All evidence points to the reality of a military, information and bloody crackdown in Zimbabwe. Moreso, allready a unleashing of military forces on political opponents, on civilians, on vulnerable sectors and, most shockingly, the escalating humanitarian crisis, as vividly demonstrated by the cholera epidemy, is left unchecked by our own political leadership in die Region. Irrespective of the peace deal in September 2008, there has to be a concerted effort, with Botswana, to demand Robert Mugabe to step down. This process need to include control by the elected president (elected in March 2008), to take full control over the military, the Police and the Central Intelligence Organisation. It is time for civil organisations, people of conscience and alliances from all sectors, all of us, to join hands, for peace and justice to return and prevail in Zimbabwe.

What Rwanda has taught us, is that is it possible for a country, in a 100 days, to be wrecked beyond recognition, but also, we are reminded that it is possible to stand up and against the Hitlers, the Bagosoras of our time...because, with God on our side, we shall overcome.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day of reconciliation

What have you done for reconciliation today? I sat through the speeches of JZ aka Umsholozi and our new, acting President. Then I finished it off with Mr Bones 2 at the mall.

I liked the speech of our new acting President. It’s a pity he was just acting. It almost looked real.

The rally of ANC was interesting. Donned on their new yellow and red t-shirts, they outdone themselves, even with a military parade of sorts, nogal. When I noticed the rally, on SABC for the first time, I wasn’t sure whether it was a parody of a Mugabe rally, with the rag-tag camouflaged battalion marching, what seemed like, in circles. These guys looked a bit in their middle-years, some evidently over-weight and often out of step; some wearing comrade styled berets, others walking ‘kaalkop’. Talking about their step, the swaying of the arms from side to side and the ‘roll’ that I recognise from my teenage years, as we try to be ‘skollie’, was, of course what made me think of the ‘veterans’ nextdoor. Seriously though, these guys purportly, symbolised the heroic armed forces of the liberation movements, and this rally was a demonstration, no, a celebration, of the ANC’s history, more specifically that of the Umkhonto weSizwe, what JZ called, the ‘people’s army’. He would often refer to Chris Hani, who was decorated, as a disciplined combatant, a soldier, etc, who, strange as it might sound, actually fought for peace. There was no ‘Umshini Wam’ anymore, no waiving of replica AK47’s, but I wondered whether maybe he did not missed the point of today, our president in waiting. It seemed to me (and this is rather subjective, I concur) this rally was subtly, yet more sinister, a playing with the more militant tradition within the history of the Alliance. With the references, often to the ANC, as the ‘congress of the people’ and its fusion with armed resistance and militancy, I wondered, where are we going with this. In vain, I hoped for the commitment to reconciliation and the non-racial and non-violence traditions, within the liberation movement.

I then only saw glimpses of the other Congress of the People rally, according to the Supreme Court, the real Congress of the People, after which it was a very disappointing Mr Bones 2. Disappointing for me. But then, I suppose the fact that the Cine was almost full and that our people, around me, of all shapes and shades were laughing themselves to a standstill, while stuffing ourselves with popcorn and colddrinks, should say something about our people. After all, its power to the people. Maybe the official reconciliation and the acting has run its course and we want some funny stories about our fumbling with each other. Maybe we simply want to look at ourselves, as we take ourselves so serious, and realise that sometimes we also need to enjoy the funny, in our efforts to be important and rich and so spiritual. If anything, Bones becomes the parody of white-ness in Africa, of Africa-ness in South Africa, of the ridiculousness of our serious-ness with officiality. Reconciliation does not take place at the rallies, at the formal speeches and fire-offerings. Reconciliation takes place, where we get to know each other behind the religious rituals, beyond the skin colour, language and the trappings of wealth and where we discover real people, who simply want to love, laugh and live. This sounds maybe a bit simplistic and superficial- but then, I hope and pray for a reconciliation that is simply real, where I have space to love, laugh and love. I simply ‘want to study war no more’.

Monday, December 01, 2008

1 Dec 1838 Emancipation of slavery ! / ?

This is one of the most important dates in the South African history: 1 December 1838. This was the day when slaves, imported from various parts of the world to South Africa to provide the labour for grain and winefarms in the Cape, were finally emancipated, after at least 180 years of slavery in the Cape. But did it end there ?

Of course, legally these round about 36 000 slaves, were freed. They are the ancestors, with the settlers mostly from the Netherlands, Germany and France, of those who eventually were called Afrikaners, but most of all, of the 'bruin mense', the 'coloureds' or like some call themselves the 'people of mixed descend'. Whilst for most part of South African history, the Afrikaners denied their slave ancestry, recently, especially since 1994, more and more come out of the closet, owning up to their mixed descend, their coloured-ness. A history was constructed, told, taught and written to erase this from their memory and helped to forge a white identity, based on a mythological genetic purity, descending solely from the original settlers. A case in point is the fact that people would not be aware that Simon van der Stel, after which Stellenbosch was named, was actually of 'mixed descend', he was coloured.

Culturally, the birth of the Afrikaans language is part of the heritage of slavery as well as 'typical' Cape and Afrikaner cuisine, literature and songs. The bitter schism and eventual political and legal tearing apart of this vibrant community, also called apartheid, led to hard lines drawn arbitrarily on law-books, but also in the hearts.

So, in a sense, we have not yet broken those invisible shackles. I just found a website, iAbolish on slavery today and they make the point that slavery is not history. Today, we find trafficing, debtslavery sex slavery, etc. The point of World Aids Day is to remind us of a new form of shackles, where communities are gripped by this invisble master, yet also a new struggle for freedom, for healing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

16 days of repentance from our violence against women and children

We, the churches are guilty in the violence against women and children. We keep silent and we silence those that cry in pain, to keep the peace. In the mean time one in three women are stripped of their dignity and the rest of us, the priest and Levites of this world, look the other way. We simply don’t want to get involved.

Yes, of course we make statements. The church that I belong to, URCSA, actually the men attending our General Synod in 2005, said, ‘We confess that, instead of treating you as equal image bearers of the living God, we often pushed you into second-class citizenship in the household of God. We confess that, instead of treating you as equal fellow-disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, for a long time we went alone to study theology and to appoint church-leaders. We confess that, instead of treating you as equal witnesses to Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we silenced you in the church and resisted the work of the Holy Spirit, who has given you so many gifts for ministry to build up the temple of the Holy Spirit.’ The question is however, what have we done to make amends, to redress this injustice?

In the South African context, the Kopanong Declaration can help to give body to our statements. Forging networks with gender justice movements, in ensuring empowerment and equality, is critical. I would however also want to contextualise this campaign by reminding us all of the hundreds of thousands (if not millions!) of women and children, who are displaced and slaughtered by a bloody mineral war in Congo (Kinshasa) and the utter mad-ness that is going on in Zimbabwe, under the approving eye of our politicians. Many flee starvation, by entering fortress Europe or South Africa, only to be caged in ‘refugee camps’ for months, some years, without hope of gaining papers to work of stay there. Further, whilst we abhor the frightening levels of rape and violence against women and girls, we need to focus our attention on politicians and leaders and their actions and policies, who continue to maintain sexist and patriarchal practices, which in reality creates the environment for these evil deeds to flourish. (How can faith communities and all people of conscience, forget the kind of crude patriarchal and archaic mentality of the current president of the African National Congress on sexuality, women and the role of a man, revealed in his perpetual court battles a year or so ago!)

Anyway, we have to make sure that we do get involve, that we keep on to raise our voices, march or pray against violence, in particular violence meted out against women and children. But most importantly, like the men of this one church said in 2005, ‘we (have to) commit to make restitution for this wrong….’

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A celebration of brown

Brown-ness should be celebrated, its the colour of the future. This is the interesting point in the article on the Obama phenomenon, by Colleen Lowe Morna, executive director of Gender Links, where she makes the point that Barrack Obama is neither black nor white, he is brown. She tells her own story, 'as a Southern African mother of two daughters of mixed race', who celebrates, the 'fortune of her two daughters in being born brown'. She concludes,
'If all that Barrack Obama succeeds in doing is to show us that between the black and white of race and politics there is a colour brown in which you can celebrate your African roots as well as pay tribute to the white grandmother and mother who raised you without being called an Oreo (black cookies with a white filling), he will have done our world a great service.'

I am becoming more and more aware of younger people celebrating their brown-ness, the 'fortune in being born brown'. What does this mean ? Is this only a struggle of us South Africans, in particular the brownies again ? Lowe Morna, who describe herself as 'born of white South Africanparents', however makes the point that, if you get on the subway in London or New York, you will be hard-pressed to find a face that is 'purely of any race'. This is my struggle, exactly. Whilst we become aware of our mixed-ness, our brown-ness, more and more we realise that this is not simply a Southern African conundrum. It is a reality within the rest of Africa, but also in other parts of the world. Danny Titus often makes the point, that the notion of mixed geneology, but also mixed heritage is not only the reality of coloureds in Southern Africa. I would like venture a bit further. Mixed-ness, in terms of geneology is a reality amongst all human beings- racial purity is a myth. In terms of this, whiteness, has no genetic ontic essence, it is a social construct, i.e. it was developed. Steve Biko, often made the point that blackness, African-ness is not about genes or pigmentation, its about a social state of being. Here we need to ackonwledge our history, the roots in slavery, European colonization, miscegenation and bricolage. So, lets accept that as human beings, we are all products of mixed geneology, and culturally, we are all mixed, hence the title of Dr Hans Heese's book, 'Groep sonder grense' (Group without boundaries)

Where does it leave the conversation ? It leaves us at the place where we have to own up to our mixed-ness, all of us. We are allways open to new shades and textures, as we evolve in our human-ness. In this process, we may celebrate the diversity and the new shades emerging, hence we may celebrate brown-ness, as long as we realise, that this is an open, inclusive celebration.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We so need angels of peace

Congratulations to our very own African-American, Charlize Theron, officially appointed by the UN, as a special peace ambassador. In a period where we as Africans, again, are simply hanging our heads in shame at the kind of humanitarian carnage on our soil, we need angels of peace.

The recent brutal slaughter of innocent people in the Eastern parts of Congo (Kinshsha) and the possible role of Rwanda, but also other countries here in the region like Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe and Zambia in our very own African world war, is simply a blight on our dancing and singing about ubuntu, human-ness and all that jazz. Let me not even touch on the topic of Robert Mugabe, and how our very own SADC leadership, with our new man at the helm, Kgalema Motlante simply roll over, and keep on rubbing in adoration, his back, whispering in some sick joke about the wicked 'Western masters', in his ear.

Then, we have our own violent crime situation, to top it all. I was horrified yesterday, to hear the shocking story of the hacking to death, of Rashida Ahmed, in Laudium. This came as her brother was also murdered three years ago, being hijacked.

It is the kind of situation where we ask about God. Surely, God cannot simply be on the side of all people. God cannot simply be on the side those who willfully go out and cruelly murder and hack to death innocent people in their homes, or those who are on the side of the Mugabe’s and leaders who instigate a bloody war against their own people. God cannot be blessing the cruel cold-blooded murder of a young man, as he loads his .303 or another, driving with an AK47, up to the home of an innocent farmer and his aged wife, on his farm eking our a hard living, from dusk to dawn.

We however believe... that God, in this world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged.

Yes, he is on the side of those who seek peace, and on the side of the church as the possession of God, who stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; This calls the us, the church, in following Christ, to witness against all the powerful and privileged who, selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.

Peace means that we have to stand up against violence, and stand with all the victims of violence. Charlize, look around, we are there with you !

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama give to the world, the audacity to hope

Most of us, with our US, but also Kenyan sisters and brothers are celebrating the change in US politics. Whilst many celebrate the fact that this is the first black US president, I would hope for a deeper look at what's happened over the last few months.

My hunch is that we see a new generation of world leaders, who are making their mark. But also, I am challenge by the reality that a new generation of voters are making their mark. They are younger, they defy old school 'skiet, skop en dônner' politics and most importantly, they connect with what John Stremlau calls, a fresh cosmopolitanism, which Barack Obama embodies, new identifications that transcend old racial categories. He like, Tiger Woods, would not allow themselves to be boxed simply as 'black', or African-American. Tiger calls himself, bi-racial- a term that, in my view, speaks of his multiple heritage and connective-ness, which include, rather then exclude.

What does Obama say ? I read his now famous speech on race and identity again and noticed, how he did not shrink back from seeing himself as standing, with others before him, in the history and legacy of slavery, but also the struggle in the quest for liberty and justice for all. He stated,
Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time. And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk – to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

He also describes himself, his wife and children in terms of an complexity of heritage and identity markers, but also conscious choices, which affirms the reality of our common identity as mixed, as open, but also the reality of the US as a fluid cosmopolitan society. His candidature, he then sees in line with a rich multi-varied tradition of constitutionalism, but also struggle and protest, in the streets but also in the courts for equality and justice. He states of his campaign,
This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

Of course, there might be a heavy burden of expectation for him to get in there and shake things up, to make things happen, especially in dealing with reconciliation of a nation divided. This kind of expectation could backfire, as he still have to deal with other pressing matters like the economic woes of the US financial institutions, but also their hideous foreign policy, pushed by Condoleezza Rice, which alienated the US from the rest of the world and still present the US as the embodiment of Empire, a military and economic hegemony of severe humanitarian and ecological destruction. He has to deal with this decisively as soon as possible.

More-so, internally, racism has been entrenched in inequality and social degradation, draconian migration law enforcement and deep resentment amongst minority communities. It relates to economic policy. Yet, it seems as if Obama is aware of the magnitude of this challenge. He said,
I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

He then throws it back and challenge all to take responsibility, by stating,
For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

In a sense he himself (his achievement, today) embodies this vision, this hope, which become in my view, what this election give back to the world and which are captured vividly in some of his closing remarks, where he affirms, 'What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow'. and '...what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.'

Of course, one could go on and on and enjoy the moment, but it remains always critical, to also remind ourselves that, at the end of the day, he also remains a human being, in all the glory and in all the frailties and vulnerabilities to sin. Hence the prayer of Annemie Bosch, wife of the late David Bosch, I received this morning, articulates also my prayers.
My prayer is that God will protect Barack Obama from all sides -

May he be granted the courage and the strength to stand by the high morals and strong convictions and the promises of positive change he has propounded during his campaign, so that he will not be swayed by the self-seeking powerful who always gravitate towards those in authority.

Above all, may Obama be protected against the pursuit (even secretly) of personal popularity and power! -- It is so true that "power corrupts" - and so does vanity..... May God keep him humble and wise and intrepid, and grant him and his supporters, the insight to seek the advice and co-operation of their opponents in all important matters of state, so together they will be able to truly work for the good of the whole American Nation - and by so doing, also, as far as possible, for the good of all the nations.

May I end off by congratulating our US friends on what you've achieved.
God bless !

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Brothers Jake and Luke shake hands

Well, well, well ! Whilst the storms are raging, and everybody is calling for Luke Watson's blood, there is another unexpected turn to the ongoing saga: Brothers Jake and Luke are joining hands, in their church.

One can only wish Jake well, on his new-found love and new-found life. Its fascinating how many Springboks ( and coaches like Heinecke Meyer and Peter de Villiers) own up to a personal faith commitment and often refers to the role of their faith in God. This affects their relationships amongst each other and so forth ( sometimes behind the headlines!) Die Burger, reports on how Brother Jake, recently became a Christian and in the midst of the recent controversy, reached out to Luke Watson, at a church gathering. In the article Brother Jake, states, something which I heard in Luke's famous, motivational speech, 'Ons moet besef daar is ’n groter plan. Dit gee jou soveel rigting in die lewe'. Now, I understand where its coming from.

Anyway, to both brothers, we can only wish them blessings and a Amen ! I think they might be showing the way.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Angelina Jolie is in the Bible !

Finally, my spiritual sense has been vindicated ! I always knew that there is something more to Angelina Jolie. She must be an angel of sorts. Now it is reported that a new Bible translation has included an image of this superstar in an illustrated Bible. Apparently this edition is a blockbuster !

Seriously though, whilst I find Angelina to be some of the few superstars, who has been an inspiration in terms of compassion and caring, this type of contextualization need to be questioned. It need to questioned when American images of stardom, are sold as the latest incarnation of God's word. In a world where the majority could care less, or don't even know, the lifestyles and antics of Hollywood, or where the USA is perceived to be the source of so much pain and mystery in terms of economic and ecological instability and imperialism in the rest of the world, this decision has to be questioned and resisted. It might sound utterly pious, yet it might be closer to the Bible to maintain that Brangelina is indeed in the Bible, where all of us are... typified as a sinner in need of grace. And it is at this place where angels are made, as normal human beings trying to make a positive change.

Friday, October 17, 2008

World Poverty Day 17 Oct 2008

On this day, we can make a difference by thinking about our lifestyles, about our commitment to justice and what we are doing about it.

World Poverty Day should actually be high in the agenda of faith communities, but we shamefully simply wait to be the next gospel or ecclesial tycoon, flying around the world in our private jet. We also fail to unmasked the false gospel parading as the panacea for the world's poor, whilst in actual fact it has been a mask hiding our true intents, self-enrichment and material greed, in service of global capitalism. Hopefully today can be a reminder to recommit ourselves in the quest for justice.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

churches and the world food crisis

Samuel Kobia, challenges churches to also get involved in the World Food crisis. I had a interesting conversations with a friend over the weekend, where I argued that the world has enough food to feed all her inhabitants, but the problem is political.

So, now Dr Kobia states, that faith communities should,
1. Advocate actively with their governments, intergovernmental organizations and international financial institutions for the implementation of the stipulation as set forth in his speech, today ( Check it out here)
2. Renew their commitment to work for genuine land reform – including the redistribution of church lands, institutional practices, demonstrating practical models of life-giving agriculture such as community based organic farming in church lands;
3. Review their own institutional practices, lift up, promote and replicate practical models of life-giving agriculture (e.g. community based, organic farming, especially in church lands);
4. Promote local and environmentally friendly agricultural production through support for:
* Community seed banks and appropriate household food reserve systems,
* Direct relationships between producers and consumers and
* Efforts of awareness-building in local communities and congregations on the global food crisis through education and ecumenical formation and relevant Bible study materials;
5. Link up with peasant movements, Indigenous Peoples, women's groups and disabled persons in designing other proposals for advancing the right to food and food sovereignty through the World Social Forum and other spaces;
6. Find ways of accessing studies on the social and environmental effects of a moratorium on agro-fuel expansion that can help churches in their work in this area.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poverty remains our biggest challenge, not new political parties

So what, if Terror or Shilowa starts a new party or if Allan Boesak walks out, again ? It's all a game- a game of power and money. Yet, everyone seems to be enchanted with the spats within the powerful ruling party, amongst tycoons, capitalists and wannabee capitalists, parading as the friends of the poor. They would even call themselves 'comrades', and act like people serious about an eminent socialist revolution. Either this is case of serious delusion or they try to fool us all. I'm not sure yet which one it is. This is the same kind of feeling one gets when listening to the debates about a 'free' market economy and how we all should simply try harder and push for more economic growth.

In the meantime, in realtime, oblivious of the slick political manoeuvrings or the paint-brushed images, the poor are dying of hunger and preventable disease. Is it possible that these powerful figures have missed the point and failed to see ? No, its not. Recently, the expired political actors (who now try to crawl back), through the 'Towards a 15-year Review', acknowledged for South African context
"Growth has exposed weaknesses ... the increase in the rate of growth does not necessarily result in a reduction in poverty."
Nor had growth reduced inequality, but had rather created a bigger gap between the rich and poor

This is no surprise as most of the countries, south of the Sahara, adhere to the flawed 'free' market dictum that capitalist economic growth will eventually eradicate poverty and bring about equality and peace on earth. It is in this context that the Accra Confession is relevant in stating,
The root causes of massive threats to life are above all the product of an unjust economic system defended and protected by political and military might.

This crisis is directly related to the development of neoliberal economic globalization, which is based on the following beliefs:
unrestrained competition, consumerism, and the unlimited economic growth and
accumulation of wealth is the best for the whole world; the ownership of private property♣ has no social obligation; capital speculation, liberalization and♣ deregulation of the market, privatization of public utilities and national resources, unrestricted access for foreign investments and imports, lower taxes, and the unrestricted movement of capital will achieve wealth for all; ♣ social obligations, protection of the poor and the weak, trade unions, and relationships
between people, are subordinate to the processes of economic growth and capital
This is an ideology that claims to be without alternative, demanding an endless flow
of sacrifices from the poor and creation. It makes the false promise that it can save the world through the creation of wealth and prosperity, claiming sovereignty over life and demanding total allegiance, which amounts to idolatry

This system fundamentally, has its grip over our governments and unless it is addressed, we will have more of the same, poverty, inequality and injustice. It is called for leaders to refrain from feeding into the consumerist lifestyles, from celebrating capitalism, but to acknowledge the role of government regulation, of the voice of local communities in what happens in our back yard, and to democratize financial institutions. For poverty to be addressed in sub-Saharan Africa, local products need to be pushed, locally and internationally through fair-trade practices, stronger government support and subsidies for emerging farmers, land reform in terms of property rights need to be fast-tracked and again government should look into the possibilities of Tobin-tax and bigger spending on education (skills-development) and health. Unless these are addressed now, we will in 15 years again hear the words, this time not from Netshitenzhe, "Despite reduced income poverty and faster growth, income inequalities did not decrease and in some respects increased"

This is a scenario scary....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Luke Watson, standing for the truth

After reading the full transcript of Luke Watson's speech at a private function (courtesy of Die Burger!), I can only have admiration for this young leader and his father. Being myself a ardent supporter of non-racial sport in the 80s and having participated in SACOS sport, I again have to agree and lament the death of the legacy of those who fought and died for non-racial sport. Today most of these voices are silent and silenced in mainstream media, where transformation in sport and sport administration remains to be under suspicion and are ridiculed. Even today, Watson might be lynched for who he is and might be vilified and quoted out of context, yet he remains a beacon of hope that people, irrespective of their racial heritage can share the same aspirations and hopes for excellence and success in this country.

I am not convinced that Luke Watson are against the presence and role of white Afrikaanses in rugby. Jake White, former Bok coach, who led the campaign against his exclusion and who orchestrated his isolation last year, celebrated it with his 'all revealing' biography and he is of English heritage. As I read the transcript, Luke's remarks on his painful experience last year in the Bokcamp, where he should have celebrated his inclusion, makes sense, given the context as corroborated by the biography of White. Where I stand, and what maybe Watson should have said, is that indeed, there is a racist clique within SARU, that still want to keep rugby in the control of whites. They have been there before 1994 and it is unthinkable that they simply left for Australia ever since. They are still fighting their battles inside SARU and they will continue to fight all that speaks of transformation and redress of the past. Luke Watson, has the guts to stand up and speak-out the truth on this sordid state of affairs. It would fascinating to read the tell-all biographies of Brian van Rooyen or of Mike Stofile or maybe even Origen Hoskins (Am I holding my breath ?).

Does this mean that all whites are again in the dock for racism ? Does it mean that Afrikaansspeaking whites are again to be singled out for special castigation ? No, of course not. I cannot read it from the speech of Luke. He did not even addressed transformation in rugby specifically. His speech speaks more of a personal - almost a spiritual/religious transformation. What I read is a motivational talk, where he argues that transformation starts from within ourselves- by self-critique and overcoming the odds stacked against you and then he recounts his own journey, as a rugby player and as the son of another rugbyplayer, who made certain important, but also costly spiritual and political choices. One line from his speech sums it up for me, he says,
I’m not throwing some political twist to this transformation, I’m not saying transformation of South African rugby, I’m not saying transformation of the man next to me, on my left or on my right, I’m saying transformation of Luke Watson, because when I’ve transformed, when I’ve pushed on

At another section he recalls,
“I’m sitting in Wellington last year, Super 14, a reporter comes up to me, he says: ‘Luke I interview your father Cheeky Watson about 20 years ago and I asked him: ‘Cheeky, why are you doing this? And Cheeky looked at me, and this is the defining moment in my life, when I got respect for him. he said: ‘Luke you father looked at me and said: ‘the reason I am doing this, is so I can look my son in he eye one day and say I made a difference, I stood up when others ran away, I faced the enemy when cowards fled, so I can look in the eye of my son one day and say: ‘I’ve made a difference.’

“Destiny is on your doorstep, I don’t care who you are or where you come from, tonight is an opportunity to grab hold of this message of transformation, to go forward - because we are so quick and easy to point at others and say why are you not transforming, have you transformed within yourself, are you creating hope, are you creating opportunities, are you creating a world for others that they can live, that they can be great in their own names and their own sake ... are you creating that world and opportunities...

Of course, we might decide to believe what mainstream media and the mob is selling us about these wretched Watsons. That is the everyone's choice, but theres another truth. After speaking to so many, who come from the dirt rugbyfields of the townships and 'lokasies', coming from SARU and KWARU, who had no hope of national and international participation because of racism, because of apartheid. Their talents were shunned and memories written out of the chronicles of South African rugby, they only shine on the photos in the barbershop, and the trophies in the sideboard. Amongst those, invisible heroes, who might not even read this post, but know the real Watsons, there is a sense of hope again; in the midst of all the spin and lies, finally, there are still people holding on to the truth- no, people standing for the truth.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

so the prez is no more...

And so we understand the prez is no more. Luthuli House has spoken. It's almost unreal, too good to be true- the air of invincibility is now no more, and yes, JZ AKA Umshini Wam is singing, dancing, smirking his way to the Union buildings, waving to us, to the world, his machine gun. Is it possible that this palace revolution has proven that after all, the machine gun politics is indeed stronger then the quasi-philosophical, political schemes of a master tactician ? I mean the prez, literally demolished the political careers of the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa and Pallo Jordan ? Do we hear in the background, the hollow, yet ominous voice of our neighborhood lunatic, asking 'how can a ballpoint pen fight with a gun'.

I was not part of the Thabo fan club. His political machinations was shrewd, calculated, deadly, yet one has to admit, highly sophisticated. One could almost say, in wicked admiration- he was (wow, its almost unbelievable that we talk about 'was'!) of the finest stock in wielding political power- he was the prez. But then, he was also corrupted by this same power. He became a power unto himself, at the expense of the glorious heritage of the struggle for freedom- freedom from tyranny, from evil despots, sacrificing people, even the best of what we as a nation and as the liberation movements had, at the alter of their cult worship.

Whilst others opted to steer clear of the prez, one thing we have to give to JZ and his band of rouges, was that they opted to take him down. They, irrespective of the spin and paintbrushed gloss, however still don't come across as the material of leaders in modern constitutionally based government, honoring the rule of law. The successful Polokwane take-over was staged mostly by a motley crew of firebrand activists, opportunists and literally the second team ( if not the D team, also known as the 'koek en bier' team ) of the ANC. But, possibly, this leadership vacuum does leave open the possibility of newer political movements and parties, around those that remained true to the values and integrity of the struggle. Possibly the leadership crisis within the ANC is now exposed that could lead to new more creative possibilities opening up for our nation. Of course, we need to be realistic and caution, that the average ANC voter could care less about a president or minister of the Republic who has archaic views on woman and sexuality or an evident lack of vocabulary on global markets, genome research or GMO's, as long as they can sing and dance. Yet, they also see the hope in what's happening. Maybe they see it different and as they sing along in the streets, 'the prez is no more', are still hoping for more than koek en bier- still simply hoping for bread, clean water and a safe home and street, irrespective of who delivers it...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

SA athletes made us all proudly South African

With the 2008 Beijing Paralympics drawing close, I can come out of hiding after Beijing 2008 Olympics. Khotso Mokoena made us proud, but what about Shireen Shapiro, Hilton Langenhoven and all the (by now!) household names and competitors of the paralympics team. Maybe we should not single out one or two, but we should celebrate the spirit with which they did it.
I salute our South African athletes. What a proudly South African moment. Indeed, despite the odds, we can rise in greatness !

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Racism in South Africa today

Few commentators have ventured into this hot potato topic. Its probably a matter of fools rush in... yet Ryland Fisher and Sarah Britten, does.

I will simply state that Fisher is provocative in stating, Black people can be the most racist. Indeed he is candid, maybe too candid; because surely this is not a matter of who is the most racist, you or me or they. The fundamantal point that we have to address first is whether black people can be racist? In my previous posts arguing that the xenophobia is simply a form of black racism, colleagues responded by saying that black people cannot be racist. It was actually the poor blacks scrambling for the crumbs that fall from the table of the rich. Fisher is correct in my view, that racism does not have a colour and like the statements of the venerable Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King (jnr), black supremacy thinking, indeed could be as dangerous as white supremacy.

Sarah Britten's post, What is genuine white racism anyway.

Die struggle in Afrikaans

Vandag is mense verbaas om te hoor dat die stryd teen Apartheid, ook in Afrikaans gevoer is.
'... die belangrike mense in die stryd, is nie Allan Boesak, nie, maar die mense van Saldanha Baai, van Veldrift, en van Vredenburg.....'

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Dominees van die Ring van Wellington (VGKSA) ondersteun Pieter de Villiers

Persverklaring van die dominees van die Ring van Wellington oor smeerveldtog teen Pieter De Villiers, Springbok afrigter:

Die Predikante van die Ring van Wellington (VGKSA) het met skok en verontwaardiging kennis geneem van die inkriminerende, afbrekende en ongetoetste aantygings teen Mnr Pieter De Villiers, wat op 7 September 2008 in die Sondag pers verskyn het. As leraars wil ons, ons absolute misnoë uitspreek oor ‘n aangeleentheid waar daar huidiglik net in die pers oor bespiegel word en nie bewys is nie, maar alreeds, tragies genoeg, die karakter en persoon van Mnr De Villiers onder so ‘n verskriklike wolk van verdenking plaas. Die skade en pyn wat hierdie hele aangeleentheid aan hom en sy gesin op persoonlike en emosionele vlak doen is natuurlike verreikend en ingrypend. Dit is ‘n onregverdige hantering van hierdie aangeleentheid en in die proses word Mnr de Villiers gruwelik verontreg en kwesbaar gelaat.

Die politieke en sosiale opset waaruit Springbok Rugby kom ( ons apartheidsverlede) moet in die aangeleentheid nie onderskat word nie.

Gegewe die beweerde rede, wat agter hierdie smeerveltog teen hom sit (soos in die pers verwoord), is dit vir ons meer as ooit te vore duidelik, dat swart leiers wat hulle in die voorheen bastion instellings van apartheid bevind, altyd ‘n teiken sal wees van diegene wat steeds die ou Suid Afrikaanse samelewings kultuur, praktyk en orde as norm en raamwerk beskou vir wat moet wees en bereik moet word.

Binne hierdie ou orde moet Pieter de Villiers ondergaan, sodat die ou verlede geprys kan word as bevoeg, deeglik en beter. Hierdie aangeleentheid teen Mnr de Villiers moet dus in ‘n baie breër konteks gesien word, veral teen die agtergrond van die gevoelens wat teen hom en die Springbokke in afgelope tyd uitgespreek is, soos verwoord in die openbare media.

Mnr de Villiers en sy gesin is aktiewe lidmate van die VGKSA en as sulks het ons geen ander uitweg as om in hierdie moeilike tyd by hom en sy gesin te staan nie. Ons keuse vir hom word deur niks anders gemotiveer, as ons geloof, ons geloof in ons Belydenis van Belhar: Om te staan waar God staan, by die verontregte. Hiermee betuig ons ons ongekwalfiseerde steun aan hom en sy gesin.

As Ring van Wellington bevestig ons ons absolute vertroue in sy integriteit en geloofwaardigheid.

Mnr de Villiers is ‘n lidmaat, wat ten spyte van die hoogtes wat hy bereik het, en sy enorme besig program, steeds tyd maak om die kerk te dien. So het hy op 4 September 2008 tyd ingeruim om as spreker by die kerk op te tree.

As leraars van die Ring van Wellington (VGKSA) betreur ons die onregverdige en venederende behandeling van Mnr. De villiers. Ons bid hom en sy gesin die Here se krag, wysheid en sterkte toe.

UITGEREIK OP 8 SEPTEMBER DEUR Ds James Mac Kay, namens die Ring van Wellington
(Voorsitter: Ondersteuninsdienste)

Kontak besonderhede: cell: 083 449 0808

Monday, September 08, 2008

Let the NG Kerk be

Why is everyone so obsessed with the NG Kerk to become one ? If they don't want to re-unite with the rest of the family of NG churches, let them be, I say. I have been an ardent supporter of the process of unification, now I am not so sure anymore.

At the last Synod of the former NG Sendingkerk, back the days, I, fresh from seminary at Stellenbosch and full of theological pearls of wisdom, argued that the unification process to form URCSA, should include the white NG Kerk. I was laughed of the mic. Today I understand why. It's not that there are none within the NG kerk who want to talk unity; in fact most of the NG scholars and theologian-dominees are evidently experts in talking and writing unity and Belhar theology, but the truth is that the price to live it, is to high. Hence, it would take too much from these advocates to say, like the reformer, 'here I stand, so help me God', to literally walk the plank. It is too high a price to take the verbal commitment to Belhar Confession to its logical conclusion.

So, I too am disillusioned and disappointed at the fact that the poll of congregations and church councils, overwhelmingly shows that this church is not prepared to accept Belhar as a confession. I agree with Gerrit Brand, that it is time for NG congregations and pastors, who do accept Belhar Confession, to make it public and official, to form a confessing community within this church- also linking with others in the 'Afrikaanse susterkerke', but also, on the basis of this same faith that we share to join the URCSA as one, non-racial, non-sexist, open Reforming church. This will allow the NG Kerk to stay their course in evidently accommodating people, who remain committed to a theology and faith that supports apartheid.

As for the URCSA, this church will also have to listen again to Belhar Confession in building a diverse, postcolonial, inclusive community and let the NG kerk be.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

old-new white identities and rugby

Nico Botha, in a recent paper to an international conference on Human Identity and Reconciliation suggest that we see in South Africa a frigthening reverse to old-styled Apartheid identities. He refered to a few examples and amongst other the recent Waterkloof 4 trial. I'm concerned about something else, related to this court case, which in my view is the tip of the hippo's ears. It speaks of something deeper. I am concerned about the groundswell of popular support for these convicted racist murderers. The argument is that they don't deserve to be in prison amongst other dangerous criminals and that they should be allowed to follow their promising careers in acting and rugby. Afterall, as the mother of Christoff Becker said, God is standing alongside them.

How am I to understand this ? So is it the same God that support the rich and the powerful in their legal quest to keep these murderers out of prison, that also stand on the side of justice? The issue is furthermore, what are we to do with the fact that young people act out their racism in the 'new South Africa', only for their parents, political leaders and the powerful Afrikaans media to either play it down as isolated irresponsible mistakes, or to put all their resources in defending the indefensible ?

For me, this relates to the fact that the public discourse on race has gone underground and private; we have still not been able to deal with the emotional (?) invisible side of it. In public we don't talk about it anymore, yet racism still maintains it's cold grip upon us. My post here would be seen as raising a non-issue, because, of course, we have closed to book on apartheid. I am however more and more convinced that we are failing ourselves and more importantly our children, if we don't deal with this head-on. We need to develop new language to talk it out and the media blissfully does'nt help us either.

The Beeld of today reports on the Waterkloof-four's pending appeal to the Constitutional Court and sort of explain to the public how the lower courts made a mistake and how, on a technicality, a precedent of Supreme Court of Appeals of 1939, they might be free again. I am not versed in legaleze and the closest I got to studying law, was the TV series, 'Beste Professor' in the 80's. So I would not dare to venture on the question where the Constitutional Court would go. I simply see that they (three of the four) yesterday, for the first time in public, admited that and how they committed this heinious crime. They state,'Ons het opgetree op 'n manier wat nie toegelaat kan word in 'n beskaafde, demokratiese gemeenskap nie en daarvoor vra ons om verskoning (We acted in a a manner that cannot be allowed in a civil, democratic community and for that we apologise'). They describe how, amongst others, they played a dark evil, kind of rugby on this man, standing back for impact, stepping forward and kicking him, with heavy duty boots, in the face, like Naas Botha. Kicking him to death, because he was most probably ivading their space, a criminal (afterall he was black).

I'm not convinced that it will help to deny the racism amongst white young people in South Africa today. Jonathan Jansen, seems to be taking this dead-end street. He argues for more understanding for these victims of the 'new South Africa' and that the new government should take the blame and suspend their discriminatory policies of redress and transformation, because this makes these victims angry and bitter. Crain Soudien, in his book, Youth identity in contemporary South Africa: Race, culture and schooling, makes more sense to me. Here we here a more nuanced conversation on the challenges we face. He argues, on the basis of extensive research the last 15 years in schools in South Africa that there are a few white youth identities emerging, namely 'global whiteness' (South African but not for long), 'supremacism' or 'old-new South African whiteness', where the Afrikaner male image is revived with rugby and heavy handed 'ontgroening'. This relates to kind of 'kampstaaldraad' identity. He also points to other positive identifications of white young people, which he calls, the 'priviledge and socially-sensitive' protrait and lastely young people who are not in the same socio-economic bracket, but who see themselves as 'new white South Africans', where 'the white young people are much more conscious of the challenges of living in the new South Africa and talk about it more openly.... they know that the history of whiteness marks then as priviledged people, but they want to build their own identity which is rooted in the country' (2007:75-76).

The question is whether we have been able to provide space for this kind of re-making of identifications where talking of the challenges of living in the new SA are open, without pretending as if there is no history. It is this kind of conversations that emerging expresions of church should keep themselves busy with, and in such a way that God is heard in the dialogue with silent voice of uncomfortable other, in the unnamed black in the park, seemingly with no family. It is here where we transcend the old and where an evident revulsion against racism give birth to new identifcations, norms and ultimately institutions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Voortrekkers toe nie so wit nie...

Ek vind altyd, Max du Preez se skryfgoed fassinerend. Ek was 'n Vrye Weekblad junkie, voor dit skielik gesneuwel het. Nouja, hierdie stukkie is werd om volledig aangehaal te word.

'Daar’s ’n Kleurling in jou Gelofte, Oom'
Aug 25 2008 02:40:00:253PM - (SA)

Max du Preez

Debatte oor die werklike betekenis van die Slag van Bloedrivier van 1838 slaan steeds elke kort-kort uit, onlangs weer op die virtuele geselsblaaie van LitNet. Daar is nie twyfel aan nie dat dié veldslag tussen ’n groep Voortrekkers en ’n mag Zoeloe-impi’s ’n belangrike oomblik in die geskiedenis van die wit Afrikaner bly.

Uit die debatte blyk dat mense wat 16 Desember steeds ingevolge die Gelofte as ’n Sabbat herdenk, meestal nie erg geesdriftig oor die post-1994-bestel is nie. Vir baie van hulle, so het ons pas weer gelees, was dit ’n oorwinning van Goed oor Kwaad en die Voortrekkers se oorwinning het beteken dat God die wit Afrikaner as ’n soort Uitverkore Volk sien – Hy het die Voortrekkers immers bo die Zoeloes verkies.

Ons moet deernis met sulke mense hê. Geslagte lank het Afrikanerpolitici en dominees dié boodskap met vurigheid op Geloftedagvierings verkondig. Afrikaner-geskiedkundiges het ook nooit die punt duidelik gestel dat daar ’n hele klomp mense aan Boere-kant by Bloedrivier was wat nie wit was nie.

As ’n mens die ou Afrikaanse geskiedenisboeke nou nalees, sien ’n mens tog raak dat van hulle meld dat daar 59 “Kleurlinge” was wat touleiers en bediendes in die laer by Bloed?rivier was. Houthakkers en waterdraers, dus, en sekerlik nie deel van God se plan vir ’n Boere-oorwinning nie.

Van die ou historici vertel ons ook dat die verdrag tussen Piet Retief en koning Dingaan wat die Slag van Bloedrivier voorafgegaan het, deur ene JG Bantjes opgetrek is en dat hy ’n lid van die Wenkommando by Bloedrivier was. Daar is plek-plek selfs melding gemaak daarvan dat dié Bantjes die Klerk van die Volksraad van die Republiek van Natalia was.

Maar wat hulle nie vir hul lesers vertel het nie, is dat Jan Gerritze Bantjes nie ’n wit man was nie. Soos William Worthington Jordan wat Willem Jordaan genoem is en die leier van die Dorslandtrekkers geword het wat in Oktober 1885 die Republiek van Upingtonia gestig het, was hy die afstammeling van slawe aan die Kaap.

Jan Gerritze Bantjes was ’n bruin man. ’n “Kleurling”.

Bantjes was nie net ’n volwaardige Voortrekker nie. Hy was een van die mees prominente intellektuele van die Trek en het menige Trekkerkinders – onder andere ’n jong Paul Kruger – in sy ossewa geleer lees en skryf.

Bantjes is op 8 Julie 1817 te Nieuwveld in die distrik Graaff-Reinet gebore. Hy was die derde kind van Bernhard Louis Bantjes en Isabella Johanna Swanepoel. Bernhard se oupa, Jan Geert Bantjes, het in 1755 in die Kaap geland en is op 5 Maart 1758 met Hilletje Agnita Jacobs getroud. Sy was die dogter van Jan Jacobs van de Caab en Agnietie Pieters van de Caab, twee slawe. Swart slawe.

Bantjes het die Beaufort-distrik in Desember 1838 saam met veldkornet Jacob de Clerq en verskeie familielede verlaat en op Nuwejaarsdag 1837 by Thaba Nchu by die Groot Trek aangesluit.

Die Voortrekkers se dominee, Erasmus Smit, het in sy dagboek geskryf: “Mnr. De Klerk het ’n jong kleurlingman saam met hom gebring, en aangesien laasgenoemde sekere talente had, het ek hom versoek om ’n passasie te lees en te sing. Sy naam is Jan Bantjes.”

Dominee Smit se opmerking oor Bantjes se velkleur is die enigste verwysing daarna van daardie tyd wat ek kon vind. In elke weergawe van die Groot Trek is daar verwysings na Bantjes as die “sekretaris” of “skrywer” of “amanuensis” van, tydens verskillende tydperke, Voortrekkerleiers Andries Pretorius, Piet Retief, Gert Maritz en Piet Uys, maar nooit ’n verwysing daarna dat hy ’n “kleurling” was nie.

En dit was nie goeie maniere of politieke korrektheid nie, want die gemeenskap het ’n obsessie met ras gehad. Daar was ’n hele paar honderd bruin mense wat die Trek as werkers vergesel het, en hulle is beslis as sosiaal minderwaardig behandel.

Die verdrag tussen Retief en Dingaan wat op 4 Desember 1838 onderteken is en ’n groot stuk grond aan die Boere oorgedra het, is deur Bantjes in sy eie handskrif opgetrek. Twee dae later, toe Retief en van sy manne vir Dingaan by umGungundlovu gaan groet het, is hulle in opdrag van die Zoeloe-koning met knuppels doodgeslaan.

Dit was Bantjes, in daardie stadium sekretaris van die bevelvoerder van die Wenkommando teen die Zoeloes, Andries Pretorius, wat die nuus van Retief se grusame einde aan die res van die Voortrekkers moes oordra.

Bantjes was in die binnekring van die groep wat op 9 Desember 1838 by Waschbankspruit ’n gelofte aan God gemaak het dat as Hy hulle ’n oorwinning oor die Zoeloes laat behaal, hulle en hul nageslag dié dag as ’n Sabbatdag sal herdenk.

Bantjes het in 1839 breedvoerig oor die Gelofte en die Slag van Bloedrivier in ’n spesiale uitgawe van die tydskrif De Zuid-Afrikaan geskryf. Dit is een van die belangrikste dokumente waarop latere historici hul ontledings van dié twee gebeurtenisse gegrond het.

Bantjes het in 1839 Klerk van die Volksraad in Pietermaritzburg geword en ook as prokureur in die landdroshof begin praktiseer. Toe die weduwee HJ van Niekerk hom vir ’n bedrag geld dagvaar wat hy glo by haar geleen het, het hy terug Kaap toe getrek om die saak te ontduik.

Bantjes het daarna vir ’n paar jaar lank ’n winkel in Prins Albert bestuur en was later die skoolmeester en voorleser van die NG Kerk in Humansdorp. In 1855 trek hy weer Graaff-Reinet toe, en agt jaar later word hy die landdrosklerk en Posmeester van die Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek in Pretoria. Van Pretoria af is hy Lichtenburg toe waar hy staatsaanklaer was, en daarvandaan na Ventersdorp, waar hy ’n paar jaar lank skoolhoof was. (Ja, Eugene, Ventersdorp.)

Jan Gerritze Bantjes is in 1887 aan huis van sy oudste seun in Potchefstroom dood. ’n Jaar tevore het sy jongste seun, ook Jan Gerritze Bantjes, die eerste goudmyner aan die nuutontdekte Witwatersrand geword.

Daar’s ’n Kleurling in jou Gelofte, Oom.

# Die volledige verhaal van Jan Bantjes verskyn in Max du Preez se boek Of Tricksters, Tyrants and Turncoats – More Unusual Stories from South Africa’s Past wat in Oktober by Zebra Press verskyn.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Stop and charge Mugabe...

Robert Mugabe should not be handed a honorary presidential position in Zimbabwe. He should stand trial for his carnage against humanity. I therefor support the call from the likes of Allan Boesak and Tinyiko Maluleke that there's no point in talking to Mugabe and that the prez, should stop defending this cruel dictator. Indeed, Boesak asks, "How can a real, honest settlement be achieved while violence is being perpetrated on innocent people?" The call is for more sanctions and isolation, and that Mugabe be stopped.

my woman's day reflections...

Only days after speaking of her desire for a proper house, Irene Grootboom, who spearheaded a Constitutional Court case in 2000 for proper housing for the poor, died in her shack in Wallacedene. She was 39.....
Eight years ago Grootboom brought an application to court on behalf of 510 children and 290 adults living in deplorable conditions in Wallacedene, demanding better housing.
The benchmark judgment declared that the state was obliged to devise and implement "a comprehensive and co-ordinated programme to realise the right of access to adequate housing".
However, last Wednesday, Grootboom has died "sick and tired" of being on the housing list.

(The Cape Argus, 04 August 2008)

On Friday, a young theological student at the Northern Theological Seminary, Catherine Mabilo, led a Biblestudy at a theological conference on gender, on a fascinating fascinating passage of scripture in Numbers 27:1-8 In the Old Testament, this passage stands out as a critique on the laws of landownership, but also of the tradition of Old Israel, a tradition steeped in patriarchy. How are we to understand it today as we reflect on the significance of Woman’s day, in our Southern African context.

I also listened on Thursday morning, to Prof Yolanda Dreyer, from the University of Pretoria on Thursday, speaking at this conference. She recounted her story as a female theological student. She came into an environment where the topics of discussion, the culture and ethos were foreign to her. She was the only female student in her class. When realising that her input is not going to change things- because the brothers were in charge, she felt like trying to fit into what she calls ‘Brotherland’ and to achieve in terms of the criteria set by Brotherland. It was, for her a lonely journey against tradition, against the expectations of her immediate environment, against who she knew she was. She felt alienated from who she was. I couldn’t identify with her because I am male and part of that power-structure, part of the Brotherland, yet I could identify because, as a coloured theological student, I was in the same situation, whilst I studied theology at the kweekskool of University of Stellenbosch, doing it in ‘Witmansland’. It is dangerous territory..

All these experiences are intimately linked to the ancient story of the 5 young women who claimed their space. This story happened at a time where the daughters of a man were invisible, they were an embarrassment a sign of weakness to the community. Deut 21 gives insight into this: ‘that the son is the first sign of the father’s strength’. The faith of Old Israel was steeped in what people call today, patriarchy – a system where the ‘pater’, the male-father rule the household, hence males also rule the community and society. The practices of society, their interpretation of God’s presence in their midst was shaped by this- hence it was not frowned upon when the 5 daughters of Zelophehad did not inherit the land of their deceased father, and the land of their clan and tribe. There are so many instances where some in communities are invisible, are not capable of, not destined to be…

Yet, an this is what fascinates me-there was something in these women, which Catherine, on Friday, highlighted:
1. they walked up to the public place, spoke up and voiced out their protest to this ruling on land, on property ownership;
2. they declared: we are here- 'ke teng' They affirmed: we are not invisible, we are not sub-human, we are here..

The significance of this protest against what was understood as normal, but also their affirmation of themselves, their genderised selves as females, need to be understood in terms of the patriarchal religious and social backdrop. Here they did not simpy spoke up to be ingored. They risk ridicule, isolation, the possibility of a cruel death in going to stand up in public and declaring their status, in claiming what rightfully belongs to them. Why would people do this kind of thing, I wonder. Surely this was not the first time it happened ? Surely they were not the only daughters in Israel or the only family where there are only daughters or where the father have died and only daughters are left?

This is the same question of what makes it for women, the Irene Grootbooms, Catherine Mabilo’s of this world to stand up, against all odds. The Bible does not make it clear what how we can answer this question. In their argument before the council, we however get a glimpse of how they were thinking and I see the following:

1. they name the history and tradition;- they call it out…
2. they put the finger in the injustice- what was wrong in that history and tradition: it is wrong that only some are recongnised and others remain invisible, unnamed, oppressed… robbed of their history, of their identity, but ultimately of their livelihood- of their economic means.
3. they reclaimed their space. They knew what they wanted: give us the rightfull property of amongst fathers relatives;

Woman’s day is something of a celebration, yet is it also a reminder, a challenge. I was thinking of the other women that currently inspire me. Not that they necessarily inspires others, I admit. The South African Olympic committee gave me the answer: Natalie du Toit. Carrying our South African flag on Friday, epitomised not only her journey, but also the journey of so many other name-less, invisible, against the odds, yet, powerful women. What has driven her to carry the flag… against all odds.
Kevin McCallum sportswriter of The Star, reflects on the significance of this day, but also on the symbolism of her carrying our flag. He writes and in a sense it starts to give perspective on all my questions, on the significance of the quest of Irene, dying the shack in Walacedeen,
“On a hot Beijing night when an 18-year-old dream and 5 000 years of culture were celebrated at the Bird's Nest, Natalie du Toit embodied the words of Confucius, who was among the many elements that made up Friday night's dazzling, and no doubt vastly expensive, opening ceremony of the 24th Olympic Games.
"Our greatest glory is not in never falling down, but in getting up every time we do," has been the credo the 24-year-old Du Toit has personified since that fateful day in 2001 when her leg was taken from her in a car accident. Being the flag bearer for Team Rainbow Nation last night [Friday] was the fulfilment of the first part of an Olympic dream that first took root at the age of 6, a desire that was intensified by the amputation…… Du Toit's and Team SA's lap around the stadium lasted just three minutes, but it mattered little to her. For seven years she was told the Olympics were a dream too far; for seven years she kept falling.
On Friday night she got up yet again. As Confucius said, it matters not how slowly, so long as you do not stop.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

At the heart of our violent society...

The xenophobia and crude violence meted out against dark-skinned, poor Africans is not over yet. Pearlie Joubert, in her article, Murderous welcome for refugees, are right there on the spot (as allways), higlighting the horror of desperate people at the hands of South Africans.

I could (again) go on and lament this, and rightfully add my voice of revulsion and protest. After all, I am a Protestant. The Protestant Social Centre, in Antwerpen highlight in their year report on their work in supporting asylymseekers, 'Hierin mag een protestantse, protesterende en profetische geloofvisie niet ontbreken als mensen in de knoei komen, dichtbij of veraf.' It would however be better for us, also to look deeper into what lies behind this and whether we are in fact, dealing with the fundamental root causes. It's one thing to erect a tenttown haphazzardly or to mobilise volunteers and groups of people of wellbeing, to hand out food; it remains however another thing to work towards sustainable solutions for all concerned. I think on this level the shallow pleas of our leaders on the African-ness of us all or to invoke the fading memories of leaders 'ín exile' in these countries, in the face of our evident opulence and illusions of the great South African (economic) dream, has proven to be just that, illusions. A naive few still believe these and continue to imagine the new African National Congress as the custodians of the interests of the poor. They are not. Their interest is business, big business and yes, for them, even the legacy of our struggle, the legacy of the commitment to the poor is for sale.

What is the alternative? I heard that the National Party, the erstwhile custodian of apartheid, has risen from the dead. Initially I thought that this was a sick, April fool's joke in August, but unfortunatly it is not. They might even be the called the 'Herstichte Nasionale Party of the new SA'. But then, maybe in their ressurection, they also might point to the frightfull deepening of the social divisions, to the point where people indeed find the past more hopeful, than imagining something new; this is where a reclaiming of the past, an essentialist identity provides solace and hope to rally around. This is disturbing, but at the least it symbolises what some knew all along: apartheid is not dead, yet. The establishment of the Bruin Belange Inisiatief (Coloured Interest Initiative), some argue, might also be a case in point, yet, I would suggest that harnessing social support around the question of identity and the material needs of people, is not in itself problematic, only where it excludes the other and are rooted in a racist heritage, ideology and vision. Here we might find an example of a progressive identity based movement that could play a key role in reminding us all what the struggle was all about-equality for all, irrespective of skin-colour. Here we might also find an affirmation of the complexity of Africannes, combined with a commitment to deal with real material needs of people. It is possible that we might find here an experiment of the kind of alternative movements, identity movements that could more effectively challenge the hegemony of the agents of a system that only benefits the few, who ironically, still call themselves, comrades. My definitions of 'bruin' might be broader then what the proponents of BBI envisioned, namely a new broader hybridity, which acknowledge that beyond the stale, outdated white-black binaries, we are all mixed, whether it be culturally, socially and genetically. It might be at this level that links could forged to challenge a cruel system that put the poor up against themselves, but also system that threatens to dehumanize, destroy us all...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Back from Belgium and still going strong

Consciously, I resolved not to blog for a month. I was in Belgium ( and a day or two in the Netherlands, which was all too short) and promised myself not to make fast observations, but wanted to experience and listen. I wanted to gain perspective for us Africans, I wanted to learn as a South African. I also wanted to understand, at least a small glimpse of the North, Brussels being officially the political heart of Europe.

It was an unnerving experience, but also an experience brimming with potential. So, in my hangover, I might sound delusional and as some of the fellow campers, commented, maybe I also need time to 'verwerk' (process) these experiences. It would also be interesting to reflect again in, say one year, to compare my reflections.

As for now, what struck me, again, was the fact that we all, and me as a South African, view other people and their countries, in terms of our lenses (well, thats all we have right ?). Our experiences, our histories, often becomes the mold in which we cast people we don't know, the other. However, when you live with each other and experience new things together, reflect on it together, grow together, you realize how relative it all becomes. One realize that we need each other's glasses to start to under-stand. And maybe this is the point- to be able to find reconciliation and justice, we need to under-stand, stand under. From the top, we get a different view, an elevated view, a view manufactured by those in power, so we see what they want us to see; from under, we see the 'draadwerk' (wiring), the hardware. It is here that we can start to make adjustments- where the smallest change, tweak, to the 'drade' can stop the whole computer, or can make it to run better, faster or to do what we want it to do, take it to the place we believe where we should go. The key is to look beyond the software. I am not saying that I can see fully- the ephata experience, or that I fully understand the motherboard. In any case, I'm not so sure that it is possible. At least, what I know is that I can see better now, that I am motivated to see try to see better next time- this relates to my country, but also to where we fit in the bigger motherboard.

The challenges we face, here in SA with regards to race and language, the fear of even hatred for the stranger, the other, are not unique. This is at the heart of the Belgium political and social turmoil. There is a vulnerability that is all around,depending on where we stand and how we name it.

From another perspective, the effects of a materialist culture that drives the current global economy on families and young people- the loneliness, loss of family time, the rage, leading to suicide and dependence on substance, but also, the spiritual vacuum, in the quest for material wealth, are life and death challenges we all face. It might manifest itself in different ways, yet its the consequences of the same system that drives tyrants. Am I at the point of offering pearls of wisdom, as to how we will solve the problems of the world ? No. I'm still at the point where I need to listen more, engage more and under-stand. I would however want to thank the CAP movement, all of them, the host families, churches, activists, the works. It has been a learning curve for me and I will continue to chew on and be shaped by the time spend with each and everyone...

Monday, June 30, 2008

ag sies, Thabo man

And now Ian Smith, I mean Robert Mugabe, irrespective of worldwide outrage, goes on plundering Zim. The most outrageous revelation since the election circus is however our Prez's support for this predator. Nauseating!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Tribute to Mr L Bergstedt on behalf of the Lückhoff Alumni

One by one the stars that have brightened the firmament of our generation are extinguished. Their voices fall silent, their seats forever empty. And no matter what we do, it seems we cannot replicate their example of honour, of labour, of love.

Now even the greatest of them all is no more. On Tuesday, 24 June 2008, the 1st Honorary Member of the Lückhoff Alumni, Mr Lesley Bigam Bergstedt, has passed away.

This legend in his own time, which has touched so many lives, was teaching at Lückhoff High for over 40 years. His gentle ways, his impeccable manners and his wisdom have inspired generation after generation. Not a single student left Lückhoff without sweet memories of Mr Burg.

His contribution to sports and his professional approach to his subject will never be forgotten. In the history of Lückhoff no one has ever made a contribution of the kind and quality of Mr Burg.

A gentle colossus has moved on, a legend has passed away. We are deeply moved by his death. Now more than ever, as the Lückhoff Alumni we are proud to be associated with him.

Without an opportunity to greet Sir, we are ever so acutely aware of our lost. Yet we grant you the rest, at the feet of your Master. As His angels meet you at His gates, know that we will surely miss you. Please forgive our tears, we find it hard to say goodbye.

Tell those that you join, we labour on. Your legacy will inspire us to greater heights.

In your ears will now ring, the caring whisper of your Saviour, as He takes you by the hand. With a heart full of praise, rest on His gentle breast, as you retire to the promise land.

May His love embrace you, in a land free of pain, free of misery and free of hurt. Join the heavenly host with the words of that beautiful song:
“And I, I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story saved by grace.”

To the Bergstedt family, and to the Principal and staff, we want to express our sincere condolences with the loss of this great man; a colleague, a brother, a friend and confidante. We share your lost and our prayers are with you all.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

sport and the new faith on the pitch

Sport tells a lot about the soul of at least the men of this country. I would think that winning or loosing, flags our commitments and deepest loyalties. Mine is WP/Stormers, Kaizer Chiefs and Man U and of course all South African national teams. I mourn for our Bafana Bafana, I hope all the best for Peter De Villiers, I want Greame and the boys to bliksem that 'water-pommie', Kevin Pietersen and the rest of the British empire- for the sake of our forebears, at least. But it's also about the way sport is run, the culture of it, that wins our hearts. Watching the Euro 2008, in bits and pieces, I could not help but think of one huge religious event- the singing, the kerkklere, the emotion, the prayers around the pitch, on the pitch, the sense of power, the sense of loss. it allways fascinates and amuse me when Bakkies Botha runs on the field, get down on his one knee and say a prayer. What does he pray for ? 'God give my right hand strength to beat those All Blacks into submission, use my hands to 'klap' them, for your name sake, I thank you Lord. Amen'. It's almost a new secular spirituality that re-invents the traditional spaces and articulations of faith. It's there and its real, whatever our positions on it. Maybe this post is an attempt at purging myself from the guilt for the time I spend in the presence of Supersport, I don't know. So as our new soccer coach states, because he was born in the same day as Jesus Christ, we should expect a miracle... and nothing less then a mirackle will let us qualify for the Angola AFCON.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yes, Bob, God will remove you, sooner than you think...

It is in utter disgust, but also disbelief, that we behold the carnage and mayhem that has engulfed Zimbabwe. In a sense the MDC was left with no other option but to distance itself from the so-called 'elections'. In the meantime, the ZANU-PF controlled Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) and government spokespeople, oblivious of the reality that Rome is burning, still pretend to stage a free and fair elections. The show must go on. How are we to understand this ? Is it possible that president Robert Mugabe and his fellow-guerillas, see something or maybe hear some voice, that we, the rest of the world is not able to detect. Maybe, indeed, he has heard that it's only God that can remove him.

Interesting how despots, often invoke God to protect their pogroms. This time however, God is called upon as the only force to remove him, What Bob doesn't realise is that his prophecy might soon be fullfilled, sooner than he thinks. When God is invoked as the protector of evil, of oppression, of murder, standing on the side of the Mugabes of this world, throughout various social revolutions, yes this much abused phrase, paradoxically, it signals the levels of insecurity that are creeping in the psyche of these incarnations of evil. They know and start to realise that there time is up. It is in this context that public opininion must keep the pressure on the structures of lies and misinformation that still keeps large chunks of the population under his spell. They must be reminded that they deserve better, that they are human beings created for life, for abundance, for love, for beauty.

Whether we like it or not, many people, even some progressive and liberation thinkers still (!) holds Mugabe in high esteem. Don't be surprise by the Mugabe-like statements coming from the likes of the ANC youth league idiots. As liberator of Zimbabwe from colonialism and the crude apartheid-style racism of Rhodesia, under the Ian Smith regime and tutelage of the United Kingdom, Robert Mugabe is still revered. His initial policy of reconciliation, the softlanding of Ian Smith and his patience with regard to the land issue in Zimbabwe, on the basis of the Lancasterhouse agreement, provides the backdrop for the respect he still commands in steering Zimbabwe on a course of reconstruction and development. Yet, Robert Mugabe, the hero, overstayed his welcome. He first became a nuisance, then a problem, and now a crisis- a humanitarian, but also a ideological crisis. Fundamental to this crisis and state of emergency is the fact that he should have left the public scene long time ago. He should have groomed and made way for someone else, while he was still on top of his game. The just demands of the landless people of Zimbabwe, in the context of globalisation, and the upsurge of neo-liberalism, should have been dealt with by someone else, not some-one who with his fellow war- torn ('bosbedonnerd') veterans, are still having delusions about the bushwar (read 'revolution') that we are still fighting. A modern and sophisticated economic policy, had to be carved, that called for creativity in dealing with the current economic realities, but also a strong commitment to the poor. This would possibly not have prevented the demands that postcolonial Zimbabwe faced, but would certainly have put Zim on a different growth path, possibly a more hopeful one. Am I going soft on the realities of late capitalism, alienating and sucking the life out of the poor? Hopefully not. What was however crucial for Zimbabwe (and what is now critical!) was a change of leadership a shift from leaders calling for machineguns, towards leaders who are willing to dine with the devil, to negotiate a better life for all. For the Mugabes and all his little clones still clutching to their machineguns, the message should go out that they are a parody of the liberation people died for, but that its time now to govern, pull the best that their countries can offer and serve their people. This is not a resignation to defeat, this is building on the victories of the liberation, but also sustaining it for coming generations, to honour those that have gone before. This is about trusting the truth that the revolution is greater and bigger than individuals, irrespective of how significant their historical role has been and therefor still is. Otherwise, they will be removed (by God, they will !) and their legacy of blood on the hands and the disdain of their own, will haunt them...this is no idle threat or liberation song... this is the way history (God ?) deals with them, whether they be Herod, Hitler, PW or Bob...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Malema also want his machinegun

How can JZ repudiate Malema when he himself often calls for his machinegun ? Is the idiotic statements by the leader of the ANC Youthleague simply a measure of what we have in terms of youth leadership? I don't think so. Yet, it does reflect the state of affairs in the ruling party.

The statements coming from the junior president is not out of line. Since we've witness the scenes on the public broadcaster, of the conference in Polokwane end of last year, being labeled as our home brewed democracy, we have in a sense, left behind our innocence. But also, we have lost the moral high ground in terms of our democratic culture and supposedly high regard for the values of political tolerance, vigorous intellectual debate and moral leadership. Do you remember how the chairperson were shouted down, how different voices were danced and sang into submission.... with the hit, 'bring me my machine gun', topping the charts. After that there were some voices stating that they will not accept a situation of JZ being trialled, let alone found guilty. Of course they were silenced and we went on with business unusual. Some more chaotic and unruly conferences came and went, a stabbing here and there, until these statements. It should be noted and commended that Kgalema Motlanthe spoke out statemenly and, by the way, he should be watched... [he should be watched], but on the whole this is the way politics in our country is descending in the abyss.

When it comes to youth leaders we should look beyond this abyss, and from Africa and South Africa, the recently announced list of Africa's young leaders might be a starting point. We need to redefine our parameters for the next generation of youth leaders, beyond political and opportunistic vultures parading as the cream of our nation and our continent's young people.