Witnessing Death

Tuesday morning remains of Monday afternoon death.



On Monday afternoon I was walking through the Company Gardens. Up ahead on the left side of the path (Government Avenue) there was a blur of movement. A person had toppled over. There was no alerting cry. No gasp or yelp. In that slouching moment breath had simply left him. He had no pulse. He was dead.

Soon there was a crowd. Respectful and concerned. The cops came. A triangle area cordoned off. The anonymous person’s body was covered by a space blanket. From outside appearance it was likely the person had been living rough for some time. An unhoused person, like so many on the city streets? He was probably younger than he looked. We wondered: “Who will let who know that their son, father, husband, brother, uncle, friend had died?” We held the sadness of the public, yet loneliness of his death. I fear this winter there will be many more lonely deaths.

Later in the evening I thought of the age-old question: “If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?”  Do our lives make a sound if no one hears us? Do our lives matter if we are not noticed? Do we exist if we are never seen? Don’t we sometimes say: “They walked past me like I didn’t exist.”? Unhoused people living on the streets experience this all day every day. They are literally ignored out of existence. Spoken to and not with. They are constantly told to “move on, move on”. 

To declare faith in a God who notices every fallen sparrow is to work for the restructuring of society so that everyone is seen and recognised as precious and essential. Where no one is ignored out of existence. In these days of growing suffering may we be given strength to resist the temptation, out of anxiety and discomfort, to turn our eyes away from the heartache and pain. In all our relationships and encounters with others may we listen in such a way that we affirm not only their existence, but their sacred worth.

In grace, Alan

Below is the extract from Etty Hillesum’s diary [An Interrupted Life] that was quoted during
last week’s sermon.

“In the darkest years of Nazi occupation and genocide, Etty Hillesum remained a celebrant of
life whose lucid intelligence, sympathy, and almost impossible gallantry were themselves a form
of inner resistance. The adult counterpart to Anne Frank, Hillesum testifies to the possibility of
awareness and compassion in the face of the most devastating challenge to one’s humanity. 
She was killed in Auschwitz in 1943 at the age of twenty-nine.” (Quote from book cover.)


Sunday Morning Prayer

“Dear God, these are anxious times. Tonight for the first time I lay in the dark with burning eyes as scene after scene of human suffering passed before me.

I shall promise You one thing, God, just one very small thing: I shall never burden my today with cares about my tomorrow, although that takes some practice. Each day is sufficient unto itself. I shall try to help You, God, to stop my strength ebbing away, though I cannot vouch for it in advance. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that You cannot help us, that we must help You to help ourselves. And that is all we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves. And perhaps in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much You Yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives.

Neither do I hold You responsible. You cannot help us but we must help You defend Your dwelling place inside us to the last. There are, it is true, some who, even at this late stage, are putting their vacuum cleaners and silver forks and spoons in safe keeping instead of guarding You, dear God. And there are those who want to put their bodies in safe keeping but who are nothing more now than a shelter for a thousand fears and bitter feelings. And they say, “I shan’t let them get me into their clutches”. But they forget that no one is in their clutches who is in Your arms.

I am beginning to feel a little more peaceful, God, thanks to this conversation with You. I shall have many more conversations with You.

You are sure to go through lean times with me now and then, when my faith weakens a little, but believe me, I shall always labour for You and remain faithful to You and I shall never drive You from my presence”.



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The Joy and Grief of Mothers

Melanie Kiel – mother of Dudley who was murdered 10 years ago
by a “Prinsloo Gun”.



Today is Mother’s Day. A day when many families celebrate mothers with joy and gratitude. It is also a day of heightened remembrance for those whose mothers have died. And for mothers whose children have died, it is a day of heightened grief. I witnessed the heart wrenching grief of mothers this past week. Mothers recounting the killing and injury of their children from gun violence. Mothers who will feel the heightened pain of loss today.

Cape Town is not a very big place when you think about it. Communities that are just a few kilometres from each other might as well be on different continents – such is the difference in life … and death. The mothers spoke of the trauma of living in communities on the Cape Flats that are saturated with gang and gun violence. They told of the necessity to text each other before they walk to the store. “Is it safe to go now? Is it all clear?” Tragically things can change in an instant and even a text message is soon out of date. Another shooting. Another casualty. Another killing. Another grieving mother.

The mothers were speaking at the launch of a class action lawsuit brought by Gun Free South Africa and partners against the Minister of Police with the aim of: [1] Claiming for damages associated with deaths and injuries resulting from the actions of Christiaan Prinsloo for coordinating the sale of guns to gangs; [2] Addressing failures in the SAPS’ weapons and ammunition management system, which allowed Prinsloo and others to leak guns from police stores undetected, for years.

According to GFSA, in 2012, the South African Police Service began recovering an excessive number of guns on the Cape Flats that had been professionally ‘cleaned’ of identifying marks – proof that a sophisticated gun smuggling syndicate was at work. To track the supplier, two senior police officials, Major-Generals Peter Jacobs and Jeremy Vearey, registered Operation Impi in December 2013. Their investigation led to the arrest in 2015 of Christiaan Prinsloo, a Colonel in SAPS. Prinsloo confessed to his role in smuggling over 2 000 guns, that had been confiscated by, or surrendered to, the police for destruction, to gang leaders on the Cape Flats and entered a plea bargain with the State, providing detailed information on the syndicate in return for a lesser sentence. He was sentenced to 18 years but was released after serving less than four.

Operation Impi revealed that 888 of the guns stolen by Prinsloo were forensically linked to 1,066 murders in the Western Cape between February 2010 and 5 June 2016. 187 children between the ages of one and 17 years were shot and 63 killed with Prinsloo guns. [That is two Marikana Massacres of children]. Of the 2,000+ Prinsloo smuggled guns (from which he earned R2million), 1,000 are still missing … still taking lives.

After Operation Impi received an affidavit in 2016 implicating the then President Zuma in state capture, Operation Impi was shut down and Jacobs and Vearey were demoted. A year later they challenged their demotion and won in the labour court.

You can find out more about the class action at classaction@gfsa.org.za. If you or someone you know was shot, injured or killed from between 2010 till today please inform them or their families about this class action.

One of the mothers who spoke at the launch was Avril Andres from Hanover Park. Her son Alcardo was shot and killed in 2015. She is the founder of Moms Move for Justice. Hers, like so many, is a story of tragedy and incredible resilience. Please see her story here.

In grace, Alan

For more information visit: www.prinslooguns.org.za & www.gfsa.co.za

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A Psalm against Tyranny

Masha Moskaleva



The first two lessons in Timothy Snyder’s best-selling book: On Tyranny – Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century read:

    Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do.”
    It is institutions that help us to preserve decency. They need our help as well. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you make them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after the other unless each is defended from the beginning. So, choose an institution you care about – a court, a newspaper, a law, a labour union – and take its side. “

I highly recommend the full reading of Snyder’s book. South Africa and the world-over need reminding.

Regarding Lesson 2: On Tyranny

I wrote a while ago warning how the Constitution of SA was being used as a scapegoat to cover for the governing party’s failings. The truth is the Constitution has not failed us. We have failed the Constitution. Going forward, it will need attentive defending. Similarly, just this past week the government embarrassingly resigned, then retracted its resignation, from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Again, scapegoating the ICC to cover its own desire not to be held accountable by it. SA’s participation in the ICC requires defending.

Regarding Lesson 1: On Tyranny

A recent example concerns the Russian school girl Masha Moskaleva. She was 12 years at the time when she drew a Ukrainian flag in April last year with the words “Glory to Ukraine”, rockets and a Russian flag with the phrase “No to war!”

As missiles fly in from the direction of Russia, a mother and her child stand defiantly in their path.

Her teacher informed the school director, who then informed the authorities about Masha’s schoolwork. The police were called and her father, Alexey Moskaleva, was put under watch for “poor parenting”. Alexey Moskaleva, who was raising Masha alone, was given a two-year prison sentence in absentia on 28 March for discrediting the army. The authorities say he fled from house arrest the night before he was due to appear.

Yelena Tarbayeva, an activist present outside the court, was arrested for holding a placard with a version of Masha’s drawing and the words “Putin eats children”. Masha is now with her estranged mother.

A regime that is afraid of a child’s drawing is a clear definition of a tyrannical regime. Notice how the teacher and the school director “obeyed in advance”. They broke Lesson 1 on Tyranny.

Today we reflect on the beloved 23rd Psalm – The Lord’s My Shepherd. If for a moment we release this psalm from its funeral home and hear it speak from its original context, we will hear it bravely honouring Snyder’s Lessons 1 and 2. We will hear a psalm against tyranny.

In grace,


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Practicing Resurrection on the streets of Cape Town


“Practice resurrection” are the last words of Wendell Berry’s 1973 poem – Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
that we printed in our last bulletin. Practice resurrection is the most beautiful and subversive invitation. Who would have thought that resurrection could be practiced? And who would have thought that each of us could make this our practice? What is it? What does it look like?

One wonder-filled example of practicing resurrection is the Streetscapes Roeland Street Garden. Some of you will remember the vacant lot alongside the parking of Fruit and Veg in Roeland Street. For years and years it was littered with rubbish, strewn with broken glass and was often the scene of drunken brawls. Today it is an abundance of nourishing food, life-giving community and dignified employment. And their resurrection practice is also green – duh. See their Green Revolution below.

The 350 square meters of land produces locally organic, affordable food for the residents in the city. It is actually one of 3 garden projects currently run by Streetscapes which started a work-based approach to wholistically address issues of unemployment, homelessness and reintegrating people fresh out of prison. They work closely with the police and the magistrates court to help petty offenders get a second chance working in vegetable gardens. In total they have created around 600 jobs.


According to their website: 77% of participants in the project have since moved off the streets thanks to the income they earn from the project. 68% of the participants have addressed their substance abuse issues in a very positive way… Work provides income, dignity and cross-race cross-class contacts – beyond their immediate community. Big part of poverty is lack of social networks needed for navigating out of poverty. Streetscapes demonstrates that people living on the streets are highly motivated to work and rebuild their lives.

Streetscapes, Khulisa’s flagship programme, provides a model for sustainable urban regeneration and addresses the neglected needs of this very vulnerable population. Departing from typical emergency relief type of services for the homeless, Streetscapes is structured to address their multi-dimensional needs. The ten project sites combined support employment, psychosocial support and a ‘housing first’ type of accommodation.

As long as poverty, injustice & inequality persist, none of us can truly rest. It doesn’t take much to change a life. Get in touch today and start making the difference.

Impact over the past 6 months:

  • Daily attendance 84%
  • 47% move off the streets in 3 months, 79% in 6 months
  • 110 full time participants, all previously chronic homeless
  • 87% have chosen to participate in substance recovery programme
  • 100% have received IDs and bank accounts
  • 100% have done primary health assessments and either have no health issues or are in treatment
  • Earned income for each participant R 2300 R 3500 per month.

At Streetscapes, we’re all about being green in more ways than one. Our organic veggies and fruits are grown without pesticides, and we produce our own seedlings, compost, and fertilizer made from chicken manure. Plus, we’ve got South Africa’s first off-grid laundromat, which is both eco-friendly and affordable at just R20 per kilogram.

Our water treatment and recycling system, expertly designed by our Swiss university partner ZHAW, is solar-powered and tested twice daily to ensure safety. And, with our naturally eco-friendly washing detergents and soaps, we’re doing our part to protect the planet.

We’re not just growing crops, either we’ve also introduced beehives to our project. With 120 000 little farmers buzzing around, we’re producing fresh honey while promoting pollination. And, with the support of experienced beekeepers, we recently landed a spot at the Honey Festival in Paarl.

But we’re not stopping there our latest green endeavour is the development of 28 new homes at Kuils River Farm. Partnering with ‘Natural Homes,’ we’re using net carbon-negative building materials made from alien invasive species. With a 3-hour fire rating and great insulation, these cost-effective slabs are half the weight of conventional concrete.

These two-storey homes will be naturally powered by solar and will use purified well water for drinking, while grey and black water will be treated and recycled for irrigation. With the help of the Stellenbosch University Water Institute team, we’re evaluating the social and environmental impact of the project and hope to replicate our model in housing projects throughout the city. At Streetscapes, we’re proud to be green and we’re just getting started.

From: Streetscapes latest News and Views which you can sign up for and hopefully also donate towards.


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