Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Well, the matric pass rate (the passing rate for seniors who take nation-wide exams on all subjects they have studied in order to get into a university). You now know that South Africa uses a fairly new system called Outcomes Based Education (OBE). The pass rate (for 2008) is down for the third year in a row. Only 1/3 of the final year students passed. Now guess what the percentage required for passing is? It's only 30%. Only 1/3 of students writing this exam scored 30% or higher. A member of Parliament has called for a review of the OBE system.
The biggest bit of news for us now that Obama has been elected and is serving in office (it really was national news) is our own upcoming election. I was at a friend's house (Li is one of the most humble and overly chilled girls I know and she has a huge heart for missions I believe) and she had a monthly Christian magazine that I happened to pick up. It's called Christian Living Today. It had an article in it entitled “Prayer for the Nation” with a Subtitle “Things to consider before casting your vote in the upcoming South African elections.” Below the subtitle was a subsubtitle “Zuma will face corruption charges” in larger letters than the subtitle.
Well, as you know on the 12th of January the Supreme Court of Appeal gave a reversal of the earlier Judge Chris Nicholson's judgment which said the government (Mbeki) had been politically motivated in its pursuance of Zuma's charges. The Supreme Court of Appeal called Nicholson's judgment “unwarranted” (it was unnecessary to say that), “erroneous”, and “incomprehensible”. So the door was opened by the Supreme Court of Appeal for the NPA to continue their investigation and indictment and impending trial against Zuma. This means the front-runner for the presidency will likely face corruption charges. Elections are in April (less than 2 months away), and he will probably be elected (should he win) before any trial is started. The article is interesting because it has a bottom section called “Before you vote” where it quotes scriptures saying the Word of God (meaning the Bible) is clear about the qualities needed for church leadership and that maybe we should consider these same words before we vote for the ministers and politicians that will oversee South Africa. Pretty strong and yet implicit statement about not voting for Zuma. It made me laugh.
Zille, the head of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and mayor of Cape Town, has called for Zuma to step down. That will probably not happen (like it would in the United States). The presidential race roars on. And the new opposition party Congress of the People (COPE) has chosen a presidential candidate, Methodist Bishop Mvume Dandala who is also general-secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches. COPE chose him because he had no political baggage as the two possible front-runners (Shilowa and Lekota) would have. It seems they didn't want to propagate the perception of COPE being a party of disgruntled ANC members, but instead a new party.
The rest of the Christian magazine dealt a lot with Valentine's Day, a big industry world-wide, including South Africa. Of course you had the usual suspects of single people who feel bad on Valentine's Day. I do regret that that happens. But I love the day, as a single person or married person (even when I was single). And I usually try to use it to show love to important people in my life. My mom and dad were sweet enough to send me a Valentine's Day card. I hope they also got to celebrate it between each other.
So I read a lot about love in South Africa, between people that had been married for years, between newlyweds, between engaged couples, between dating couples, and a love of life for people who were single. I think that would be my wish on this day for the world. No matter where you are, love. Love life and shine—either in marriage or in single-hood. Both can be gifts.
The 1st of February this year, abortion will have now been legal for 12 years. I'm dealing a lot with this through abortion and adoption counseling of women, partners, and couples. I'll talk more about abortion and adoption and share some love letters in the next update.
I will say that adoption and abortion don't seem to be the most pertinent issues to South Africans with the upcoming election. I think housing is huge (remember there are people in informal settlements and shanty-towns who still have not received adequate housing since 1994 even if they signed up on a list that year!). Another hot topic is crime. It's rampant; it's everywhere. I have luckily not had any personal interactions with it but I have had two incidents (someone breaking into the car while I was in a bookbinding shop and someone breaking into the house while I was at the university). In fact, right now, police are warning people to be careful and vigilant while drawing money out of ATMs. Some robbers are watching you do that and following you only to attack or mug you later to get your money.
There are over 150 different political parties registered to compete in the upcoming election, but normally there is one dominant party—the ANC. Now COPE is challenging that, but I'm not sure they have the support of enough Black South Africans to win. The ANC is clinging hard to Mandela since he was part of the organization (he has retired from political life). He appeared at a rally for the ANC in the Eastern Cape (where Haley was studying) last week. Reports are suggesting that perhaps he was forced to go against the priority of his ailing health. His grandson who appeared (and Zuma) with him deny this. Either way, he is quite weak, and everyone wants to know who's side is he on? Normally the Mandela Foundation takes care of his needs, travel, food, etc. But the spokesperson for the Foundation claims not to have known about this appearance until the day before (possibly implying that it was not Mandela's choice to do it). Zuma and the grandson are outraged by the implications.
The news here never ceases to stop, even I don't report much. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has warned that Obama risks losing momentum and support (or goodwill) from the world if he squanders the chance to make huge steps. For instance, he urges Obama to support the International Criminal Court (please see the section on Pax Americana and part of the National Security Strategy, item #3). Second he urges Obama to be hard on African dictators. Tutu also thought it would be great if Obama issued a general apology on behalf of the nation to the world and especially Iraqis for the invasion and the resulting disaster.
Also, South African Airways (SAA) staff have been caught transporting drugs. At least 30 agents were arrested for smuggling drugs.