Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Pope is Retired, but I’m Getting Re-treaded!

This is an amazing day!  Benedict has stepped aside… if he was an African leader, he would be eligible for Mo Ibraim’s prize for heads of state who retire voluntarily.  Africa needs fewer Presidents-for-life and I hope that Benedict has started a trend.  God bless him for leading by example!

A Lament

I am sad to announce that my right-hand man for 5 years now has decided to emigrate.  He just got his green card and is on his way to New York.  The gap that he is going to leave in C4L’s senior management team will be a hard act to follow.

But what are the prospects for a “pale male” age 40 in South Africa today?  It’s pretty gloomy.  The Finance Minister gave his budget speech today.  One thing he noted is that tax revenue is R16 billion less that projected in last year speech.  Why?  Because the economy slowed down in the last half of 2012, he said.

Another factor that he didn’t mention has to be the “brain drain”.  Ben Christo is a case in point.  In saying so, I do not disagree with his decision to emigrate.  He is half way through his career, and sees better prospects outside South Africa than in it.

When I came to South Africa 19 years ago, about 1 person in 6 were white.  It is now about 1 person in 10.  This reflects both The Exodus of skills and experience and population growth of 10 million – from 40 million in 1994 to 50 million today.  So many young people, almost entirely black and poor, will be entering the job market in the next 20 years, while Ben Christo is still in career mode.  He has read the signs of the times.

I will also miss him as a friend and trusted advisor, but I take solace from the words of St. Francis de Sales: “Friendships begun in this world will be taken up again, never to be broken off.”  Today we celebrated our enduring friendship by hiking up the escarpment.  We had a mountain top experience, visiting ADAM’S CALENDAR.  This was partly for debriefing in these final weeks of “hand-over” and partly to prepare ourselves for the rising nostalgia.

Please, I highly recommend that you Google ADAM’S CALENDAR.  It is on Ben Christo’s favorite mountain, near where he lives.  I had heard about it, read about it and pondered over the claims being made about it.  But I had never seen it myself.  Seeing is believing.  It is touted as possibly the oldest architecture in the whole world – maybe 75 000 years old?  A calendar whose shadow moves across the major stone, cast by a sculpted stone a meter closer to sunset, from Equinox to Solstice – tracking the annual cycle.  So it is a calendar not a clock.  I can see that this could be a major new world heritage site - in its early stages of discovery.

It reminds me of the amazing story of the Canadian archaeologist who followed her hunch to Mexico to learn Spanish (the same time that I went to work in Angola), then to Spain to research medieval records in town churches, then to the Labrador coast to verify what she discovered in those old archives in Spain.  She re-discovered centuries later that summer whaling expeditions occurred, then ended after several centuries, because the whale population was depleted so (or the whales adapted and swam elsewhere).  By the way, on those old Spanish maps, the land mass where they set up their summer camp for processing the whale oil (used to fuel the streetlights in Paris and London) was thought to be uninhabited – so they wrote “Ca nada” meaning “Here, nothing”.  The name stuck!

ADAM’S CALENDAR may be another such amazing discovery?  In our time.  I visited it today at it is enchanting.  Enough said!  Please visit it on Google.

The Signs of the Times

Ben Christo’s departure makes me reflect on being a generation older, also a pale male, and worse yet a foreigner… in a context of 45% unemployment.

As a missionary, I face three challenges that are symptomatic of this country. 

First, South Africa has a run-away case of affirmative action.  Many black intellectuals are saying openly that they want to start competing on merit – not because they are “historically disadvantaged”.  My major concern is that the advantage in this country is being given to the majority – not to a minority.  And to a majority that is in power.

Second, there are strong sentiments of xenophobia in South Africans
.  This has various manifestations, but the conflict in Sasolburg is this year’s major episode.  I have run into it head on this year, personally, in attitudes that defy incarnational missiology.

Third, unemployment rates are soaring.  In line with a world-wide phenomenon, this is mainly among youth.  We prefer to give a hand up than a hand-out, but the new grant corroborates the rationale for C4L’s main focus. African Youth do not need charity, they need INSPIRATION!

The 3 reasons cited lead me to conclude that I need to be “re-treaded”.  I am certainly not in a position to retire, but like Benedict I may have to do the unthinkable…

Since I first came to Africa to work in 1982, I have resisted the traditional paradigm of “missionary support”.  In my heart I still do, as I prefer to function on a level playing field.  But that playing field now has reached a tipping point – against “tentmakers”.  So I am thinking that I need to raise “support” outside South Africa to cover 50% of my income.  It may seem like regress, but I think that the logic is sound. 

Another factor that I have written about previously is the trend towards a “command economy” in South Africa.  This is having a huge effect on what I do for a living – training.  Stacked together with the three points above, sustaining my ministry is likely to need external “balance of payments support”.

Here are some options that come to mind:

  • Spend periods away (possibly in Canada) earning and saving
  • Visit Canada for a sabbatical period (maybe in summer) to raise missionary support
  • Get C4L to reinvent itself, as the symbiosis between it and myself are evident to all

Do I want to emigrate?  (Or is it to return?)  Not in my heart.  I am not there yet.  Just as Benedict is not leaving the Vatican, but becoming a “pope emeritus”, I still see C4L as home.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Happy Birthday Tu-tu!

The archbishop emeritus turns 81 today.  It is Thanksgiving Sunday in Canada – so give thanks for his life.

To celebrate, he helped a cancer-related NGO with some fundraising.  This is fitting, as he himself has fought prostate cancer – and won.  Cancer can be beaten!

During his birthday party, he heard that he had received the Mo Ibrahim Foundation award in recognition of his contribution to justice, freedom and democracy.

Tutu said: “I have been very fortunate throughout my life to be surrounded by people of the highest caliber, beginning with my extraordinary wife.  It is these generous people who have guided, prodded, assisted, cajoled – and ultimately allowed – me to take the credit.”

I see that Graca Machel delivered the annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture at the University of the Western Cape.  She is quoted as saying:

“It may sound presumptuous, but I have observed, as a South African and a Mozambican, that we have huge difficulty in communicating in a serene, peaceful, accommodating manner.  We have a lot of anger in our communication.  We are harming one another because we can’t control our pain.”

Food for thought!

In its first few decades in the USA, Democracy took a bit of a different turn from the political parties in England – the Conservatives and Liberals.  The two parties that emerged are still with us – the Democrats and the Republicans.  Each country is a different context and Democracy has to adapt.  So there is not just the Democratization of Africa, but there is the Africanization of Democracy!

In South Africa, although the names have not stuck yet, the distinction could be described as the Constitutionalists and the Triumphalists.

These are the citizens from all parties including the ANC that believe the Constitution is paramount.  To quote a recent article by Opposition leader Helen Zille:

  • Defending our constitution and securing its promise of equal rights and fair opportunities for all
  • Nurturing genuine non-racialism on the basis of reconciliation and redress
  • Growing an appropriately regulated, market-driven economy that can achieve the levels of sustainable growth needed to reduce unemployment significantly and lessen inequality
  • Building a state that puts competence above party loyalty, values service and punishes self-interest and corruption

And in the other corner, wearing the red shorts, are the Triumphalists!  A political biography of Deputy President Kgalema Montlanthe was recently released.  The author Ebrahim Harvey mentions some of his concerns:

“Moves within Luthuli House after Polokwane to unseat premiers said to be close to Mbeki worried him most because they were driven by the same factionalist manoeuvring vices the Zuma-ites had accused Mbeki of not long before.  If the period before Polokwane left him very worried about the state of the affairs in the organization he had dedicated his life to, then the period after Polokwane was not much better.

“Many in what was called the Zuma camp did not clearly understand what was really wrong with the previous leadership, because if they really did understand, they would not in fact be repeating many problems committed by the previous leaders.

“Within the earlier leadership, when they manoeuvred and were wrong in this or that, you could invoke the constitution, pull them into line and they would back off, but leadership after Polokwane were extremely triumphalist and did not really listen when you invoked the constitution. Instead they thought you don’t understand power. 

“For them the form and manifestation of the problem was simple: Zuma was victimized and we lined up behind him and removed Mbeki.  But they failed to understand that other than and independent of this problem there were many other accompanying problems.  It reminded me of what Mandela once said: ‘A crisis or chaos can give rise to a leadership which is ill-suited to solve the problems and in fact can worsen them.’

“I was unhappy that after Mbeki resigned he was not kept in the loop and serviced as Mandela was when he retired.  Right up to Polokwane, I briefed Mandela on all important matters, but in the case of Thabo, we were not treating him the same.”

C4L’s Case Study

We are caught in a similar conundrum at C4L.  We entered a Joint Venture earlier this year only to find that our partners are basically “tenderprenuers”.  We do not condone some of their conduct and we have even dared to become “whistle blowers”.  This means, like it or not, that we have taken the Constitutionalist road out.

Meanwhile the Triumphalists are proving ill-suited to solve the partnership problems and as Mandela indicated, actually worsen them!

These are the fault lines in South Africa – no longer black and white but Constitutionalists and Triumphalists.  The erstewhile youth leader Julius Malema comes to mind.  He finally got pushed out by ANC Disciplinary action and he is now getting the heat for corruption.  But he continues to be influential because he is a populist who relates well to young people.  In fact, he has represented his constituency well, but sadly used his contacts in public service to feather his own nest.  Thank God for “The Arch” who remains the role-model par excellence.