I have no wish to intrude on the hallowed turf of my friend Richard Haslop, the  music critic.    With a tip of the hat to the incomparable Fats Domino here is an explanation of what is happening in South Africa today, thanks to Fiona Forde.   Instead of ‘walking apart’ or ‘walking behind’ we appear to be ‘walking together’ and it is a high-conflict scenario.

“By definition this is the scenario with lots of voices, lots of actors, therefore lots of contestation, lots of protest marches, lots of arguments in the press, lots of court cases, lots of yelling and screaming.   And if you don’t realise that you will be alarmed at the conflict.   But if you understand that ‘walk together’ necessarily implies a high level of conflict, then you will interpret that conflict in a different way.”

Hence SA in 2011 is a place “not of ill health, but of health.   That’s what walk together looks like.”

Business Day today is the first to publish an interesting and enlightening article by Fiona Forde, a freelance writer, Walking together to a new SA is meant to look like this in which mention is made of Adam Kahane, who facilitated the Mont Fleur scenarios 20 years ago.

The entire article is a must read but Business Day has kindly consented to me providing some extracts and a link to the article.

“In the face of our unbelievably complex challenges, there are two options available to us: a practical option and a miraculous option,” the story went.

“The practical option would be for us to get down on our knees and pray that some miraculous person will intervene and do it for us.   The miraculous option would be for us to argue and talk and work together and figure it out ourselves.”

It was only after much debate that the second interpretation prevailed and the team recognised they were storing up trouble if they did not address the problems.   And from there, the three scenarios eventually emerged which they put words on during their final workshop in February 2009: “Walk together”, “walk apart” or “walk behind”.

  • “Walk apart” imagined an unhealthy world by 2020 where everyone was looking out for themselves or their people in the face of such problems, be it their family, their organisation or their faction, depending on how they defined people.
  • “Walk behind” depicted an interventionist state that would try to manage challenges on behalf of all who lived in the country.
  • “Walk together” captured a country where the various actors — the government included — worked in concert towards a better future.

Those words echoed loud when he facilitated the Dinokeng Scenarios a couple of years ago, which got SA talking about where the country was headed and what the future held.   The scenario planning started out in 2008 and Canadian-born Kahane was brought in to facilitate it.   He was joined by a group of conveners and a team 30 or so people, drawn from different walks of life.   Between them they crafted what has become known as the Dinokeng Scenarios .

I want to ask him why we don’t hear more about the scenarios today, but then I’m reminded of the practical versus the miraculous option.   Two years ago, we were all talking coherently about the scenarios.   They provided something of a compass, a practical guide.   But today we are living through the scenarios in what often feels like an incoherent way.

Perhaps Kahane is right.   Perhaps we are walking together.   And as he would say, that’s miraculous.

But maybe the practical gave way to the miraculous too soon.   Maybe a little more of the practical — more guidance on how to frame these pressing conversations — would make us miraculously more able to inhabit this miraculous state.