ANC, DA or EFF? The Appeal of None.

ANC, DA or EFF? The Appeal of None.

I absolutely love elections! I get genuinely excited about the whole messy process of democracy.

My wife says I’m a nerd and that nobody loves elections. She says they only love the fact that they get a day off work. But the way I see it, elections give the little people like me a chance to have a real impact on the course of history. Who wouldn’t get excited about that?

But this election, not so much. I find myself not only lacking my usual excitement, but apathetic. Having been a lifelong advocate of the crucial importance of exercising ones right to vote, I find myself conflicted over what I shall even end up doing come the 8th May. In the end, I will of course vote – we all must. And hopefully I will find my mojo and enjoy it. But I’m not feeling it; I am depressed at the fact that our country’s politics and corruption, has knocked the guts out of my excitement for democracy and especially our unique, much-celebrated democracy. I am sure I will get this back…I am working on it.

And so, to the big question of who to vote for. I literally have no idea. Can we return to power a party that has quite literally defecated on our dreams; told us that our lives are meaningless in the face of their insatiable needs? A party that has delivered lie-upon-lie-upon-lie and still lies to us?

Can we give our precious vote to a party that has no visible leadership of any kind? That uses the identities of dead people – yes, people who died at the hands of the ruling party – but actual deceased human being’s names, for political gain? I mean what the hell have we become when dead people are fair game to win votes? Identities stolen and used without even asking for permission? And it mustn’t go unchecked that these people were the most vulnerable of all society.

And then there is a party who if proven guilty can be called nothing but evil incarnate; what has happened to the soul of mankind when it wins votes by wooing the hearts and minds of the poor and then allegedly robs their bank? ROBS THEIR BANK!?

This is how I see it: If I vote for either the ANC, the DA or the EFF then I am complicit in the vile and utterly contemptible abuse of the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable of our country. Forget all my private middle class concerns of land and the Rand and stock prices and whether we have load shedding today and I can’t power up my laptop. Our poor need not to be poor anymore. Period.

So again, who will I vote for? I am open to suggestions. All I do know for sure is that I have a couple of months to answer this one question: Which party honestly and truthfully has the alleviation of poverty at the heart of not only its manifesto but its track record? That is the party that must get my vote because at the end of the day, poverty – which encompasses the issues of education, unemployment, housing, land, crime, the economy etc – is the only issue that really matters.

Instability is guaranteed if poverty is not addressed – fast.

We Are Launching a NEW Baby Home!

We Are Launching a NEW Baby Home!

There are over 3 500 children abandoned in South Africa every year and adoptions have virtually ground to a halt. As a result, places of safety like the Durban North Baby Home are literally bursting at the seams and the need for care for babies is at crisis point. With this in mind, The Peace Agency is proud and hugely excited to announce that we will be opening a Baby Home in Umlazi, South of Durban!

Even more exciting is the fact that it will be headed up by our longest standing care giver, Aunty Eunice. Aunty Eunice has been with the Peace Agency since we opened our very first Baby Home in Umhlanga. She is well known and loved by all our visitors and volunteers.

Not only will the Umlazi Baby Home provide love and care to babies abandoned or orphaned in Durban, it is also going to be a training centre for caregivers, providing valuable skills and opportunities for decent work for people in the Umlazi community. This has been a big dream of ours for a while and we cannot wait for it to become a reality.

We want to invite you to join us in making this desperately needed facility a reality. Our aim is to raise the amount needed (R500k) to buy the property outright and be caring for babies there by April. No amount is too small! And as the financial year comes to an end, remember that we are a level 1 BBBEE NPO with18A status as a Public Benefit Organisation. 

“Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love”

TOGETHER we can make this happen! Go to the Baby Home website to see how you can donate.
#AngeloAgrizzi: The Mirror We Should All Be Holding Up?

#AngeloAgrizzi: The Mirror We Should All Be Holding Up?

Angelo Agrizzi has put a new face to the rot of corruption in South Africa. He is forever stuck in our minds as a corpulent manifestation of the excesses he so minutely detailed at the Zondo Commission into State Capture.

But BOSASA, the Guptas, Jacob Zuma and any other high-profile individuals or organisations that emerge from these commissions represent only a part of the corruption story in South Africa. Over the past few years I have worked with and/or mentored several SMME’s – businesses that typically turnover less than R10 million per annum. Each one has told me their own painful stories of how they have had to play the “tender game” to survive. Whether they are in waste management, building, consulting, electrical contracting you name it, if they are supplying government (or indeed the private sector for that matter), they have a story to tell of corruption.

Corruption is our malignant cancer that doesn’t just exist amongst the big players. It has spread into every province, every city, every municipality, town and village. It is a part of South African’s every day, lived reality. It has infected every sector from construction to music (allegedly, bands have to bribe judges to win a SAMA music award.)

This stuff will never make it to the Zondo Commission and most of it will never see a courtroom.  But it is killing us. Because corruption is not something we do per se, it has become a part of who we are – of what makes us South African. If you don’t believe me, ask a small business owner. Or easier yet, ask your friends and family.

The good news is that at our end of corruption – the “little people’s” end – there is stuff we can do to put an end to it. You may not like what I am going to say, but if we all do our bit it will help to save our country. We will need to be prepared to spend time in jail if we are caught drinking and driving, because we refuse to pay a bribe. We will need to be prepared to report anyone who asks us for a bribe. I suggest SAPS plus the Corruption Watch hotline 0800 023 456. The more detail we can provide the better. We will need to do the same with our friends and family who are engaged in corruption.

If we are not prepared to tackle corruption ourselves, then we can’t say that the likes of Agrizzi, Watson, Gupta, Zuma or anyone else is solely to blame for the ruin of South Africa at the hands of the corrupt.

We are too.

Adoption: Not For Africa?

Adoption: Not For Africa?

Please Note: This post serves as an invitation to all interested/effected parties to join a conversation in which we discuss the decolonization of adoption in a safe, humble and respectful fashion. In particular, I extend the invitation to officials in the Department of Social Development. Please e-mail me if you would like to participate justin@peaceagency.org.za

There is a major outcry about proposed amendments to our legislation on adoption in South Africa.

The long and short of it is that the Department of Social Development (DSD) is proposing that professionals who currently render adoption services – social workers, psychologists, lawyers etc – not be allowed to receive payment for these services. Only department-employed social workers will be permitted to do adoptions. But according to non-department social workers, DSD social workers are not suitably qualified to do adoptions and hence adoptions will dwindle further.

Why would the government do this; stop professionals from making a living from offering a service to children and families? The Department contends that adoption is a child protection issue and it therefore has an obligation to render this service free to all. It argues that by doing this, adoption will become more accessible to all South Africans. But then why not make adoptions done by the Department free and adoptions done privately, paid for? This is how many critical areas of South African life operate; health care, security, post to name a few. Surely there is more to this than meets the eye?

Adoption practitioners, advocates and the media have suggested that the move is designed to effectively put an end to adoption in South Africa. Private practitioners can’t derive an income from adoption therefore they will stop offering the service, and government practitioners are not qualified, so cannot offer the service. The people who will suffer the most are adoptable children and their future families. Again – why do this?

For some years now, I have advocated what I refer to as the urgent need for the “decolonization of adoption”. Simply put, adoption is a Western notion (and predominantly middle-class) that needs to be rethought and overhauled for our African context. Why do I say this?

Adoption (especially unrelated adoptions) is practised mostly by white social workers matching black children with middle-class, white parents (precisely because adoption is a widely vilified practise throughout African culture). This would all be fine on one level except for the fact that we as the adoption community of adoptive parents, practitioners etc have made little if any effort over the past quarter century to understand the intricacies of how and why adoption is repugnant in most black African cultures and how we can work together to make it relevant cross culturally and across demographics, in South Africa in 2019.

For example, in African culture connection to one’s ancestral roots is of vital importance. Should this not be considered, respected and acknowledge in adoption practise? What about language? Should it not be a requirement of cross-cultural adoption that parents learn and teach their adoptive child a language that will make them feel connected and accepted in later life? There is so much evidence now to suggest that this is vital.

Now, I am aware that this will cause some unease. I spoke this narrative of decolonization in front of a group of adoption practitioners and the tension was palpable. One of them even said of my suggestion around acknowledgement of the ancestral heritage of an adoptive child: “Over my dead body.” I get this. We feel a threat – especially on a religious level – from this kind of “decolonizing language”. But the question that must be asked is, can a concept like adoption – especially trans-racial adoption – survive in such a deeply polarised environment if we don’t have these conversations? Indeed, should it survive? Do we not have a responsibility to come together and talk about how we can do it better….in the best interests of African children?

And stories abound about black adult adoptees rebelling against their white adoptive parents because this stuff wasn’t considered let alone spoken about. One all-too-often hears stories of adoptees that speak of a lack of belonging, a lack of cultural identity and a feeling of displacement. So, we ignore it at our peril as adoptive parents and as the community at large. The argument for the department making adoption free? I guess it’s that at least we make this service available to all and end it being the virtually exclusive domain of the white middle/upper class. Can’t knock that.

Like with all things in our 25-year-old democracy, we will either do the hard work of decolonization through dialogue, generosity of hand and spirit, vulnerability, humility and love, or it will be done for us through legislation and even expropriation or violence.

We can talk about the best interests of children, but are we sure that how we are practising adoption is currently in the best interests of children? I’m not.

Let’s get together and talk it out. My NGO The Peace Agency would be glad to sponsor this dialogue/series of dialogues.

Please e-mail me if you would like to participate justin@peaceagency.org.za

Meeting the Need that Meets Me

Meeting the Need that Meets Me

“Purpose”; “meaning”; “calling”– these and similar concepts have become very popular in recent times. For many of us, it is no longer enough to work hard to support our family and pay a weekly visit to our place of worship be that mosque or mountain. We want to be a part of “changing the world”; “shifting the needle”; “making a difference”. This is because we are evolving and so is spirituality and faith – thank God.

As it dawns on us that charity (love) should begin at home, but that it certainly cannot end there, we might begin to feel a pull towards something to do that is bigger than ourselves. And we might – especially at the beginning of a year – look to volunteer at a creche or visit the sick or elderly. If we are feeling very brave, we might go on a mission trip or even think to start an NGO.

This can all be very useful, but to what extent is it ego-driven – all about my purpose; my calling; my giving back? Or possibly an appeasement of guilt or a way to shine up my personal brand? In the end, our true purpose – the kind that will have lasting impact – is found and met not by what we do, but by who we are; by how we show up in the world every minute of every day. Is it authentic? Is it about what I say it is? Is it rooted in love? Are my eyes, my mouth, my heart and my hands aligned as I reach out beyond myself?

I have come to this through involving myself in seemingly “big-hearted” works that in the end were much more to do with my ego than the subjects of my seeming love and compassion. This has been a deeply painful realisation.  

So now, I am just trying to show up differently. If there is someone selling litchis at the tollgate I will buy the litchis because this is someone’s livelihood. Do I need hangers? Perhaps not – but I can afford to buy the hangers. I will buy them as this will feed someone’s child. If I hear that people have lost everything in a fire in a small town or a flood somewhere, I will send what I can. So, what I am trying to do is meet the need that meets me, whether that is a national news story or a car guard who has perhaps done very little to guard my car.

Please note: I am generally awful at this. I get very irritated and frustrated and I often find myself miserly and tight spirited.  But I believe that my weak efforts to show up well are better-intentioned and hence more impactful than my grand gestures. I also believe that they mix with grace to create an impact beyond themselves.