By working together, we can move mountains

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By Howard Feldman, Synthesis

I read an interesting article about the power and majesty of draft horses.

Weighing up to a ton, these magnificent, muscular animals can pull and move tremendous loads. A single draft horse can haul up to 3 000 kilograms. Such strength is difficult to imagine, but the lesson is more effective when I discovered what two horses working together can accomplish.

The obvious answer would seem to be 6 000 kg or twice the weight one can drag behind him. But two of these horses can move up to 12 000 kg—three times the weight one can tow. This alone illustrates the value of teamwork, and yet more impressive is the fact that when two draft horses are trained together and labour alongside each other, their pulling capacity increases to 18 000 kg—four times the weight either could have moved alone!

The message is clear. Alone, even if we are magnificent beasts, we can accomplish a decent amount. Together we can do much more than double, but if we are taught to work together, that number is significantly higher still.

This is a lesson that our political parties should consider taking on board.

Consider the embarrassing scenes that took place in Ekurhuleni Thursday evening. What can only be described as a brawl (of the bar room kind), councillors punched each other, scattered papers and lobbed weaponised water bottles as the meeting descended into complete chaos.

Ironically, Ekurhuleni means “place of peace” in XiTsonga.  Ekurhuleni is one of the five districts of Gauteng and one of the eight metropolitan municipalities of South Africa.  

The physical altercation involving Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and African National Congress (ANC) councillors has broken out in the Ekurhuleni Council ahead of the no-confidence vote against the city’s mayor, Sivuyile Ngodwana.

The clash flared when Council Speaker Nthabiseng Tshivhenga recognised an ANC councillor to take the podium instead of one from the EFF.

Several objects were thrown around with a water bottle landing on Tshivhenga, who subsequently left the building.

The brawl comes ahead of a vote of no confidence against Ngodwana. The motion was tabled by ActionSA and is now supported by the ANC.

The disharmony is not an East Rand thing alone. The city of Johannesburg is little better. Current mayor, Kabelo Gwamanda of the Al Jama-ah’s party (a party that holds less than 5% of the vote), is seen to be an ineffectual figure head, and no more than a symptom of the inability of the larger parties to work together. For the ANC and EFF, it is more important to keep the DA and Action SA out of leadership than it is for the largest city in the country to run effectively.

They would rather the city continue its slide into decay than have an opposition party manage it.

With South Africa’s national election date set for 29 May, South Africa is shifting into election mode. Recognition that the country can ill afford another ANC term, with the ANC at its lowest popularity point in history and with the first real possibility of a regime change, focus is shifting to “day after” scenarios. The concern, however, is if the functioning of the municipalities is an indication of things to come, there is a lot of work to be done.

If we are to learn from nature and specifically our draft horses, South African political parties need to work together and not against each other. More than that: They need to practice doing so in order to increase the load.

South Africa is not in a good space and it will take more than simply the desire for better to materialise the vision of what can be. To get there, we need not only to stop throwing water bottles at each other, but also to resolve to work alongside one another and to practice doing so.

Most of us are not stallions, but with the right approach, we can move mountains. Load by load.