You Ask for Directions from Those Ahead of You (Day 5 of ASRI)


Constitutional Court of South Africa (April 2015)

Constitutional Court of South Africa (April 2015)

Today is a very brief blog post (yesterday was a busy evening!) but I did want to share reflections of Day 5 of ASRI nonetheless. Yesterday we began Week 2 of the program and the theme of this week is Government. The day started with a learning, building and growing session in the morning to share reflections of the program thus far, and because there was lots to reflect on, the session stretched to a two and a half hour conversation.

I learnt a lot from listening and learning from everyone’s perspectives and experiences but felt hesitant to speak, though I did share some reflections at the end of our chat. I was hesitant because I wasn’t sure if there was much I could add to the conversation, and because since the programme started, I’ve been having an internal conversation asking myself whether I should be speaking. A someone who isn’t South African and who is new to the country, should I contribute to our discussions about the history of South Africa and how we can create a more just and equitable society? Though I am trying to learn lots and my husband and I debrief about each day during tea chats at home every night, I don’t know a lot of the references, I don’t know the history of country well and  I/my biological family didn’t experience the effects of apartheid first-hand. For that reason, I am still trying to figure out what my role is in forming solutions and sharing my thoughts about the course content, and I’m wary about assuming too much space in discussion circles. It’s something I’m still thinking about because I don’t want to presume to have knowledges that I do not have.

Having said that, I find blogging is a nice space where i can unpack my thoughts a bit, and here are some thoughts from today:

  1. I want to figure out my core competencies and the area in which I can make the best interventions for social change. Each of the speakers we’ve had so far have been so accomplished and have made immense contributions in very particular fields. Through this fellowship I want to take the feelings of anger that the Apartheid Museum and the Old Fort at Constitution Hill brought up in me personally and use those emotions to fuel the contributions that I am best suited to make. I know I love to write, I know I care about literacy and community development and youth employment (among other areas) and it would be helpful to develop areas of specialization based on the skills I currently have, the skills want to develop and the knowledges that planning has helped me develop thus far.
  2. I want to believe in the institutions that we have. Last week we learnt about the Constitution and the rights that it protects and I want to believe that government and the institutions of government can be used to as means to create better societies.
  3. Self care matters. The whole day at ASRI and when we came home after the day concluded, I felt cloudy and there was a heaviness in my heart and I wasn’t quite sure what the matter was. After my husband and I prayed the evening prayer together though, I realized that to help myself process the course content and all the different things that I am learning and experiencing, I need to strive to establish/maintain the things in my life that are sources of tranquility and that help me to re-fuel and recharge. Adequate sleep (a challenge!), eating well, taking quiet time on my own during the day so the introvert in me can rest, and most importantly prayer, help me to be more effective and help me to think and feel clearly, and God-willing I can use these things to engender reflection. The course is very well designed and I want to take it all in, so I want to ensure I’m doing the things that help me to be my most alert.

After our reflection session we had David Lewis and Ronald Menoe from Corruption Watch visit us. Corruption Watch is an organization that strives to tackle corruption and looks at the role of young people in strengthening accountability, and the organization started in 2012 and has received over 11,000 corruption reports since then at a rate of about 100/week. There are ten different communication channels through which the public can report corruption, and while Corruption Watch  is able to investigate a few of them, their primary focus is amplifying the voices of members of the public who report corruption. I was disappointed by their work personally because though it is great to allow people channels to report corruption, Corruption Watch has limited/no ability to actually bring people to account or punish anyone who is guilty of corruption. Their powers are limited to sharing that corruption is happening and advocating to government through reports about trends of corruption evident in the corruption stories members of the public share with them.

Our second presentation of the day was by Aliyah Dangor from the Midvaal Municipality who spoke about local government and she was amazing. She had lots to share about the responsibilities of local government, how municipal budgeting works, how national, provincial and local plans (called Integrated Development Plans) are linked together and how they differ, and the challenges of working in local government. It was wonderful and very planning related and it was great to see that despite being across the world from where I studied planning, planning concepts remain consistent.

And finally, here are new vocab words I learnt today ( I have a list from week 1 as well and I’ll post that soon)

Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu: You are who you are because of the community (Zulu)

Indlela ibuzwa kwabaphambili: You ask for directions from those ahead of you (Zulu)

CWP: Community Works Programme

EPWP: Expanded Public Works Programme

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