On 24 March 2020, I wrote an article about the perfect storm. I defined the natural phenomenon by this name as something that occurs when a warm wind collides with a cold wind over a warm and wet area. The result is often a very intense and destructive storm. I went on to write that ‘Here in South Africa, we seem to be experiencing our own ‘perfect storm’. For some time now our nation has been ‘warm and wet’ with corruption, crime, recession, and the like. Then came the warm wind of even more electricity load shedding than last year, followed closely by the cold wind of Covid-19. The results of the ensuing storm are stock exchange and rand collapse, rapidly deepening economic crisis… and panic! Like three apocalyptic horsemen with the 4th grim reaper not far behind!”
Now, sixteen months later, we are experiencing an even more intense Perfect Storm. Two of the vectors of this remain the same and the only difference is that we still have electricity, although there is no guarantee that this supply will remain stable.
The Storm of July 2021
I am neither a political nor an economics ‘expert’, but here is how I see the current situation that will most probably be seen by future generations as a turning point for South Africa:
- Our previous Head of State is the figurehead for a faction within the ruling party of our nation who are openly opposed to the more moderate and honest current government. On Wednesday night he was arrested and incarcerated and at the same time on Friday 9th July 2021, a mob burned about 25 trucks on the national road between Durban and Johannesburg. And so it started.
- The tactics employed by the insurrectionists are plain to see and are right out of the Marxist playbook. Mobilise the hungry and hopeless to loot and burn, attack key infrastructures such as distribution networks, the apparatus of law and order, and so on, all to make the nation ungovernable so that they can ascend to power amid the chaos.
What is Obvious to me
Some overseas readers might have been informed by what I have written by way of introduction, although all of us here in South Africa are painfully aware of the crisis we face.
I write this on the fifth day of the insurrection with no idea of how things are going to go from here. However, the following problems have already become obvious to me:
- There are millions of people in our nation who are hungry and millions more who have no job or prospect of employment. 75% of the nation’s youth do not earn a living because there just are no jobs for them. They are the future fathers, leaders, and influencers, but they are also a huge body of people who have little hope and nothing to lose. To date, the government has been unable to productively deploy these people and the current decimation of our economy will make this task even harder.
- We have a huge moral deficit in our nation, not only among some businessmen, government managers, and political leaders, but also among the middle class of society. I watched with horror as hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children looted mall after mall. At first, the plunder was mainly food, but as the chaos continued the looters started taking fridges, TV sets, furniture and the like. (There is a saying doing the rounds on social media that reads, “I am so hungry I could steal a TV”). Then my horror reached an even higher level when the news channels were flooded with shots of hoards of people arriving in smart cars and trucks to haul away their loot. These were not the poor and hungry, but morally corrupt middle-class people.
- Our leaders and their law enforcement agencies appear to lack the ability to take fast, dynamic and decisive action. The political pronouncements are careful, calculated and uninspiring. The TV reporters arrive at the scene of looting and arson long before the police do and when the ‘law’ eventually arrives they seem to just potter around trying to prevent loss of life but not loss of livelihood.
What can we do?
I don’t ask the question ’what can be done?’ but what can we do, you and me.
From my perspective, the government is doing what it can and so it is not just a matter of what ‘they’ can do. The church is the extended family of God and, in the main, local church leaders are also doing what they can. However, we Christians are the church and we are also citizens of our nation, and we can do something. We need to be praying and we need to be encouraging one another and sharing the Gospel wherever we can. We can and should be doing this in any event, but these are extraordinary times. Our nation is in crisis and this calls for extraordinary effort.
Determined citizens are banding together to protect their businesses, shops, and suburbs. In the area where I live, the Community Police Forum is doing a great job in keeping us safe and our local Residents Association is keeping us up-to-date and in touch with emergency services.
So, then, against this background, what can you and I do?
Feed the Hungry
In the longer term, we can get involved in teaching moral values to the people of our land. We could even, as individuals, get involved in local and national politics. However, the question is ‘what can I do now’?
Well, the ‘cannon fodder for the insurrectionists is the huge number of hungry and hopeless people. They are suffering now and they will be in an even worse position when the smoke clears and they see that they have helped to destroy their sources of supply and hope. Now, I am a pretty average South African. I don’t have a job because I am a retired 73-year-old. My means are modest but my needs are even more modest. I can do more with my financial resources than I have done in the past. I can give to organisations that have the infrastructure, methods, and leadership to feed the poor. I can find out if I can assist local groups like the Community Police Forum.
I can make a small difference but enough of our small differences could make a huge difference.
So, here is what I suggest: Get hold of your church leaders and ask them if there is any feeding scheme your church supports that you can also support in your personal capacity. Ask them for contact details of other organisations they know of and can recommend as honest and effective. Ask them to liaise with the various community groups I have already mentioned, and to let you know what their needs are and how you can get involved. Don’t suggest that the church office, staff, or the pastor do more, but find out what YOU can do.
What else can I do? I can comfort those in my circle of influence, pray for and with them, and point them to Jesus and the peace he brings. I can try to guard my own heart and not let anger or despair grip me. I can determine to make clear and reasoned decisions and to act responsibly in these irresponsible and insane times.
What Jesus did and said
Everything I have written so far does not just come from social conscience or self-preservation. These do factor into my thinking, but the general ideas are in line with what Jesus said and did.
- ‘Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ (Matthew 9:35-36).
- ‘When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” ‘ (Matthew 14:14-16)
- ‘Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.””(Matthew 15:32)
We have the words of Jesus. We have the Gospel of Salvation. We have the guiding and empowering influence of the Holy Spirit. We have resources and we are resourceful. So, we can preach, witness, pray, and feed the hungry… all in the name of Jesus. We can make a difference!