Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Life improves, or does it?

After the disaster that was Nellie's dinner on Monday, last night was better. Wow - that post generated a lot of emails! And interestingly, it was the first time I've had equal amounts of conflicting advice.

Anyway, we did the same routine as the previous two nights, except that I started half an hour earlier. It wasn't easy and we did have a few tears, but nothing major. I made a concerted effort not to make it a trial for her, but to stick to my guns. It seemed to work. It took an hour, but she ate beautifully in the end. Given that she'd had a bottle of milk an hour before supper, I was really thrilled at how much she ate - a bottle of food, a small yoghurt, a fruit pot, a small box of raisins, a small bread stick, and one of Mommy's biscuits.

(And she was very cute yesterday! See her post on her site about the day. We did some more videoing, so will try to get that up on her site in due course.)

I rang Home Affairs again this morning, to find out about the progress on her birth registration and passport.... only to discover that... wait for it... they are all on strike AGAIN! (or is that STILL?). I seem to have the knack for choosing the day to call!

Turns out that civil servants in SA are on the rampage about pay increases. I sympathise. When you realise that a nurse who has been working for 22 years, and is the major breadwinner in her family of 6, still gets less than £500 a month, it kind of puts the inconvenience of Nellie not having a passport into perspective. Yet, on the other hand, SA is a third world country where unemployment is at 30%. Where are all the civil servants expecting this extra cash to come from? The government has increased its offer from 5% pay increase to 7.25%. Strikers have reduced their demands from 12% to 10%. But that's still a way off from reaching a compromise.

While this battle rages, government schools have been closed for a week; state hospitals are moving patients to private ones, only to discover that the private hospitals are also closing; neo-natal units are unable to help all but the most critically ill babies; Home Affairs departments are closed in both Cape Town and in Pretoria; train, taxi and bus services are either not running, or running in a drastically reduced fashion, especially in Kwa-Zulu Natal; refuse collections have been stopped... the list goes on.

Here I am going on about Nellie not eating when my home country has come to a grinding halt because of injustices in the civil servant pay structures. I think their pay is an offense to God, and yet at the same time, I don't see how to improve their situation without making drastic cuts to essential services. Yes, there is a lot of corruption in government, and that needs to be dealt with if we're ever going to solve this problem. But to what extent, and how much of a difference it would make to available money for salaries, I really couldn't say.

I'm praying that this doesn't deteriorate into something like the strikes in the UK in Thatcher's day. I'm praying that a solution can be found that is good for everyone.

And yes, I'm praying that Nellie gets her passport in time and eats something too, between now and then.
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