Reflections of a journalist in Berlin

The Angela Merkel era in Germany will end when voters there go to the polls on Sunday September 26. An East German pastor’s daughter, she became Chancellor on November 22, 2005. At 51 she was the youngest person ever to hold that office, she was also the first woman and the first former East German.

She remains as much of an enigma as when she stepped on to the German political stage in the 1990s.

Encounters with Angela Merkel


30 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall: how Berlin change impacted on southern Africa

November has been a month of remembering the Fall of the Berlin Wall. I spent much of the autumn in Berlin listening and speaking to eye-witnesses. Here I look back comparing change in my two countries.

30 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall

I was sleeping in Namibia when the Berlin Wall fell on the night of 9 November, 1989. I was there to cover the historic first free and fair elections in that country.

Namibia’s election was a big story coming after years of strife and deadlock and involving the UN, their Peace Keeping Force which guarded the truce and the international community. In that year…


30 years after reunification still no unity

THIRTY years after reunification, the old divisions between East and West Germany have not been fully overcome in German Churches or wider society.

For the first time since reunification, in late August, the five church leaders of the East German regional Protestant Churches of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) met. The meeting, in the East German city of Greifswald, was labelled a laboratory for the future.

“The sense of community in the Church is different” in their Churches, the president, the Revd Joachim Liebig, from the west, said.


No other date tells the history of twentieth-century Germany as poignantly as November 9. No other date is so laden with the burdens of the history of this country. And no other date symbolizes so strongly irreversible changes about to become reality. On two occasions in 1918 and 1988, they were joyful occasions when political systems ended and there were new beginnings. In 1938 it was the long night into the despair of what became the Shoah.

The End of World War One

On November 9, 1918 upheaval and an anti-government revolution with a strong anti-war sentiment reached Berlin. It forced the German Kaiser Wilhelm the…


You make some valid points and in dealing with their past they have set a good example in recent years, but it took a long time. You would no doubt know from your time here that the reality is much more complicated. The German Bishop's Conference is certainly not united on all issues: they are pretty divided on many other issues - how to deal with sexual abuse cases, for example. And there are huge differences between the different Dioceses and some of these conflicts sometimes spill over into the public domain.


South African investigative journalist, speaker of truth to power

Hennie (JHP) Serfontein is especially remembered for his Broederbond investigative journalism exposés.

Serfontein was also the journalist who broke the news that then political prisoner Nelson Mandela was in secret talks with the apartheid South African Government. A major journalistic scoop at the time. His sources were de facto first hand.

“Nelson Mandela, the imprisoned leader of the banned African National Congress, has been involved in “serious dialogue” with senior members of the government for almost three years.”

Hennie Serfontein August 4, 1989


“It is the most trying Madiba Day since democracy”

South Africa faced its worst post-democracy Mandela Day, since 1994.

On July 18, each year the world remembers Nelson Mandela’s birthday with Madiba Day where his legacy is honored through 67 minutes of volunteering and community service. In South Africa this year the mood was circumspect. After a week of looting, destruction and anarchy, South Africa’s constitutional democracy is facing unprecedented threats.

This week Cape Town’s Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba told me:

“It is the most trying Madiba Day since democracy. …


Sea-Watch 4 set sail in the Mediterranean

The additional refugee sea rescue ship Sea-Watch 4 initiated by the German Protestant churches umbrella body EKD with the “United4Rescue” alliance has set off on its first mission in the Mediterranean after a year of preparations.

The ship, financed by donations led by German Protestant churches, left the Spanish port of Burriana on Saturday August 15, 2020 and is on its way to the search and rescue zone off the coast of Libya.

The chairperson of the EKD (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland), the umbrella body of the German Protestant churches Lutheran bishop Dr. …


World church bodies in solidarity with Zimbabwean churches

International church organisations on Monday rallied to show solidarity with churches in Zimbabwe under attack from the government.

The Lutheran World Federation, the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Communion of Reformed Churches, and the World Methodist Council sent a message of solidarity of their “yearning for the realization of their human rights, for justice and for physical and economic security” in an open pastoral letter to the churches and people of Zimbabwe on August 17.

They condemned the use of violence against those protesting the “failure of governance structures” to protect the Zimbabwe people from “deteriorating” conditions.

The…


Catholic bishops denounce State crackdown, drawing sharp government attack

Zimbabwe’s Catholic bishops (ZCBC) drew a sharp government response after issuing a Pastoral Letter, titled ‘The March Is Not Ended’ on the current crisis in the southern African nation. In a vitriolic attack on the bishops, a government minister played on delicate tribal divisions and was herself accused of stirring genocide.

In a Pastoral Letter released on August 14, the ZCBC condemned the government’s current crackdown on any form of dissent, citing actions such as against journalists and political opposition leaders arrested and charged and left in jail.

“Fear runs down the spine of many of our people today. The…

Anli Serfontein

South African journalist, author & filmmaker in Berlin. Writing on southern Africa, Germany, politics, culture, films, books, interfaith. www.serfontein.org

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