Red tape standing in the way of relief
I was really frustrated today. Towards the end of last year we received an offer (which we did not ask for) from a certain European country, through aid organisations in South Africa, to assist us with our home-based caring project. The amounts mentioned in the offer was astronomical (measured against what we are used to in Swaziland). However, at the start of this year the initial amount promised had been cut by 75% and when the first (and up to now, the only) amount was received in February, this had been cut with a further 70% leaving us with approximately 7.5% of what we had initially been promised. Well, I have more or less an attitude that the Bible warns us in Psalm 146 that we should not put our trust in princes and that this episode has once again proven the truth of the Bible.
Today I found out what the excuse was for not paying out anything more to the project. Each country donating money to other countries have a set of forms which have to be completed every month to explain how the money is being used. But every few months, these forms change! And I had a look at the latest forms and there are parts of these forms (seven pages per project) that I don’t even understand, let alone people whose knowledge of English is much less than my own. And because the forms have not been completed correctly, all the money is being kept back (probably to teach the people in Swaziland a lesson). The person who had been appointed by the subsidising organisation in South Africa to help the caregivers to complete the forms have not received any salary either nor money for fuel or money for the tax to pass through the border every time she enters Swaziland from South Africa. Obviously, she also needs to be taught a lesson to ensure that the forms will be completed correctly next month.
And I just thought to myself how easy it is for us who have more money to sit in our air-conditioned offices and make decisions about other people’s lives without caring one bit about their circumstances, whether they have food to eat, money to send their children to school or clothes to wear. All that matters are the forms (most of which will be filed unread in any case).
To make matters worse, I had to travel to Manzini in mid-Swaziland today to apply for a permit. Someone had donated about 2.5 tons of rice to us. But this was donated from South Africa and it cannot be transported across the border to Swaziland without a special permit. The food is not contaminated. Swaziland does not produce its own rice. But one company has the monopoly to decide whether rice may be brought across the border. After phone calls and faxes sent from South Africa to Swaziland, eventually the permit was given to us. But even though the food was donated and even though it is not going to be sold but given to those in need, we will still have to pay 3.5 % of the total value to this board which graciously gave us a permit to bring rice into Swaziland to feed the hungry.
And I couldn’t help asking myself what God thinks about all the red tape involved in obtaining food and other necessities to care for the hungry and the sick.
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This is a blog where I would like to share some of my ideas about contemporary mission. I have more than 25 years experience as a full-time missionary in Swaziland, have done a PhD on the theology of mission – specifically on the relationship between mission and eschatology – and am presently specialising in the problem of HIV/AIDS and how the church should approach this problem. You are welcome to respond and share your ideas on this blog.
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