Can politicians collaborate?

Posted by Janice Scheckter on 25 July 2016 8:50 PM CAT

As we find ourselves on the eve of what will probably be one of the most hotly contested local elections in South Africa since the birth of our democracy in 1994, I find myself wondering what we could attribute to the ‘average’ politician - conflict, collusion, corruption or collaboration?

What if national consideration ruled over political expediency? What if Britain had been more collaborative in its Brexit journey? What if countries engaged more around refugee crises and found ways to address the global reality of vulnerable citizens. Sounds like nirvana, doesn’t it? Sadly my belief is that the very essence of politics as it is today, will always be a barrier to true collaboration.

Let’s focus on South Africa with a deeper look into our ruling party the ANC (African National Congress), which may lose a few key metros, but will continue to run the country. This is the party that prior to democracy managed to find ways of collaborating to influence real change. While Nelson Mandela and his fellow inmates explored, dreamed, vigorously debated and found subversive ways to communicate and collaborate with those on the outside, the apartheid government braced itself for what democracy would mean.

The ANC as freedom fighters were, to an extent, collaborative. The ANC in government is not. I don’t believe this problem is exclusively South Africa. Government and politics by its very nature, has within its systems, aspects that disallow true collaboration. Despite coming into power embracing promises of ‘better’, once in power there are trade-offs, egos and personal agendas, nepotism, corruption, etc. I have heard election promises like ‘a better life for all’ for years but when I look around me, the human landscape speaks a different story.

Politicians need to reinvent themselves in this collaborative era. People with or without votes are becoming powerful in new digital ways. No politician can collaborate in today’s constructs of politics, as they will continue to find points of difference rather than a shared vision and they will fight opposition as though their lives depended on it.


To learn more on collaboration and the collaborative era subscribe to Collaboration Central where you can watch 3 - 4-minute videos with great insights.

Janice Scheckter, collaboration activist, will vote on 3 August because it is such a valued human right, and because many South Africans died for that very right. She hopes that one day politics will evolve to a place that finds ways for politicians to collaborate and build a truly better life for all.    

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