Belgian aid-worker writes Zulu novel

Posted on | juni 15, 2011 | No Comments

More than 14-million black South Africans get billions of Rands worth of food-aid, monthly benefits, and free housing from the government each year: (benefits which are all denied to poor whites, by the way). Why does the South African government still demand ever-more cash from abroad?

For example: Khulani Simunye is/was a ‘non-governmental’ charity in KwaZuluNatal which helped impoverished, unregistered Zulus obtain legal registration papers so that they could get on the charity rolls.  Its charity-workers’ jobs were to negotiate and  intervene on  behalf of poor illerate people with local government agencies. 

In reality, Western charity workers such as the Belgian Gunther Gys, author of the new book ‘ Wrong Foundations of Love ’ – a real-life novel about Zulu culture, however usually up having to beg for money from abroad with constant demands for food, housing, rent-payments, school-fees. Often such Western charity workers end up spending most of their own resources and energy looking after a growing host of needy individuals – often because they have little knowledge of local culture, and frequently misunderstand what is expected of them. Little wonder then that the foreign funding for the SA charity Khulani Simunye went on the rails after Gys left its employ after four years and started up his own charity – by then he was thoroughly and openly disgusted with the incompetence of government agencies. And suddenly the young Belgian charity director found himself in court: where he had to prove his innocence after false accusations of trumped-up paededophilia-charges, of which he was acquitted after a year-long, very harrowing trial.

Outspoken Belgian Aid worker became an embarrassment to local-level ANC-leaders
For despite the fact that under SA law one is presumably innocent until the State proves you guilty, it was Gunther Gys who had to prove that totally false accusations were lodged, purportedly by a ‘jealous mother’ who had forced her young son to lie to the investigating police.

However there was also another political aspect to this case: the outspoken Gys also was clearly becoming an embarrassment to the local-level ANC-leaders.

‘South Africa is a joke on the world-map…’ – Gunther Gys

After four years of dealing with government agencies, Gys had become so disillusioned, that he not only told this to everyone he knew inside and outside the country, but also publicly announced that he was writing a book about it: “There is not one (government) agency which functions properly,” he wrote me a year ago; “You actually cannot imagine the way this government runs the country. South Africa is registered as a joke on the world-map. Not one service works any more: Home Affairs, SAPS , Social Development, Housing, Transport, Financial departments, not one department functions properly”. And he should know: he had personal dealings with each of these departments in his battle to obtain legal documentation for his charges at Khulani Simunye for four years…

Western charity workers give up ‘because of cultural differences’
The next charity worker dispatched to Khulani Simunye from Europe, a woman named Lilian, also gave up after six months ‘because of cultural differences’. The charity now apparently languishes: the local ANC-leaders have taken over the functions of the ‘non-governmental-organisation’, especially after the recent local-government elections, when they were very keen to get as many voters on the voters- and welfare-rolls as possible.

Gys’ devastating experience is a typical example of the kind of cultural clash which occurs because Western aid-workers don’t recognise the early-warning signs due to the often vast cultural differences which exist between both worlds…

‘Dysfunctional goverment departments’
After his year-long plight – financially strapped waiting for his trial to end – Gys returned to Belgium, where his adopted son has since then also joined him. However, Gys first published a novel – about the devastating effects the macho-Zulu culture has on its women; the fight by one woman to overcome the social stigmas attached to womanhood. His book, “Wrong Foundation of Love’ – available through Amazon – should make a terrific movie: if filmmakers can get permission from the ‘culturally-sensitive’ residents to film in this empoverished region.

Western Aid workers should get Gunther Gys’ book Wrong Foundations of Love before going to South Africa. oreover, any Western charities who plan on dispatching Western aid-workers to South Africa should all purchase this book enmasse as required reading – well before their departure. Gys’ novel takes a very sympathetic look at Zulu culture: but also shows the great many pitfalls which often create so many cultural clashes between the recipients and the dispensers of welfare and development-aid.

Gys’ devastating experiences in South Africa are a perfect example: the young liberal Belgian was keenly dedicated to ‘helping poor black South Africans uplift themselves’, he told me – and in fact he still remains so today. He went there will the best of intentions, yet his devastating experiences amongst the Zulus showed that good intentions just aren’t enough. Importantly, one needs to be armed with a great deal of knowledge about the very different culture one has to deal with each day – and it helps a great deal to learn the language before departure, too.

‘ Her life was not easy due to cultural differences ’
After Gunter Gys left Khulani Simunye due to ‘cultural differences’ and launched his own charity, obtaining funding from Belgium instead, things went even more downhill: the next welfare worker who was dispatched as a liaison between the South African charity and its Dutch donors, also a highly motivated young woman, tried hard, but it wasn’t enough: This young woman, Lilian, ‘did her very best for six months, but her life was not easy due to cultural differences,’ noted the blog for Khulani Simunye, adding: “We thus have to suspend the activities for Khulani Simunye in South Africa because a suitable local replacement also could not be found”.

AUTHOR: Adriana Stuijt
E-MAIL: a.j.stuijt [at]


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