Harmonisation is a pivot on which the GNU must rotate

Mabila Mathebula

Mabila Mathebula

Published Jun 26, 2024


Mabila Mathebula

The reconfiguration of the new Cabinet of National Unity (CNU) after the ANC failed to win an outright majority in the election is a cynosure of all eyes and, obviously, President Cyril Ramaphosa is in an invidious position in his political career.

It is notable that this is not the traditional ANC Cabinet where the ANC and its alliance partners dominated the proverbial playing field. This is the CNU where the president must exercise enough caution to satisfy a myriad stakeholders who are outside the ANC alliance.

Evidently, the ANC Women’s League has a gender agenda and is putting pressure on Ramaphosa to zero in on gender equity in the appointment of new Cabinet members. The alliance partners are also exacting pressure on the president to “do the right thing or to do things right”.

The demanding stakeholders have lost that fragment of decency to allow the president to use his own discretion during this tumultuous period where emotional blackmail by disenchanted members of the Government of National Unity (GNU) could be a distinct possibility.

I surmise that it will not surfeit the president to go through the list of capable candidates before he announces his new Cabinet. The million-dollar question is: Will the CNU be synergistic or chaotic?

Concord and not entropy should be the guiding star in the appointment of the CNU as aptly put by Casely Hayford in 1925: “It is recognised that co-operation is the greatest word of the century. With co-operation we can command peace, goodwill, and concord without chaos, confusion and ruin. But there can really be no co-operation between the inferiors and the superiors. Try as they may, there must come a time when elements of superiority will seek to dictate and the inferior ones will resent such dictation.”

Dictation is a good exercise to enhance spelling skills if it is part of a primary school curriculum, however, it is bad exercise when it is used as a weapon of political mass destruction.

Hayford’s views were enhanced by John Lennon. Lennon foresaw a situation where he could be labelled as a dreamer if he made a clarion call for world peace and human togetherness when the world was in entropy.

He challenged the world to shift the conflict paradigm and imagine a peaceful world where people would be living together in perfect peace and prosperity. He amplified his imagination by saying: “Imagine all the people sharing all the world.”

One would have been labelled a dreamer or a prophet of gloom and doom in 1994 if one imagined or predicted the formation of the GNU after 30 years of ANC domination. Simply put, the ANC has a natural dominion over the black electorate. It was that domination which Nelson Mandela fought against. One never imagined in 1994 that the ANC’s gravy train would one day derail and be rerailed by the potpourri of GNU.

Let us imagine all political parties that have solemnly agreed to be part of the GNU as separate European countries with unique operating railway systems. Imagine some of the countries operating their trains on a narrow gauge and some on a standard gauge where a train must seamlessly traverse countries.

It would be impossible for a train to traverse different railways systems without interoperability or harmonisation. Interoperability is a “euro word” that is a shorthand for harmonisation of technical and operational standards to allow trains to operate across borders without stopping, changing locomotives and/or changing drivers. Simply put, interoperability means being able to operate across different systems or geographical jurisdictions, without barriers.

Put differently, How do different political parties in the GNU collectively deliver services to all South Africans in a harmonious way without peddling identity politics?

Our position needs policy and perspective harmonisation. For example, you may think that your policy or manifesto is paved with good intentions to mitigate unemployment, poverty and inequality, however, such a policy must undergo a harmonisation process in a GNU in order for such a policy to be “interoperable”.

It is high time our politicians learnt the concept of interoperability for the common good of all South Africans.

The antecedent for interoperabity in Europe was Directive 96/48 EU which was passed into European law in 1996, on the interoperability of the Trans European Network (Ten) for high-speed trains.

This was the first of the interoperability directives. The directive looks to harmonised the construction standard for new-built high-speed railways with a line speed greater then 250km/h and was extended to also cover the upgrade of existing lines for a line speed of 200km/h or more.

The directive lays down “essential requirements” for these routes and the rolling stock that operates on them and sets up a process for the production of detail technical standards (Technical Specifications for Interoperability).

The directive also mandates the establishment of and recognition of a “joint representative body” to manage the production of the standards. The International Union of Railways, the Association of European Railways Suppliers and the International Union of Public Transport established the European Railway Interoperability Association for this purpose, and it was recognised formally by the EU.

Directive 2001/16 EU was signed in 2001. It extends the scope of interoperability requirements to certain conventional routes that connect to the Ten. The conventional directive also extends the scope of interoperability in another sense in that renewal and not just upgrading is covered.

It would be important for our government to benchmark with the railway industry in order to understand the concept of harmonisation. Benchmarking is a process for identifying best practices and adopting or adapting them for your own use.

It is an effective management tool widely used in the world of business for discovering and using the best approaches to get all kinds of work done. The railway industry, particularly in Europe, went through a dramatic change of vertical separation when infrastructure ownership was separated from railway operation. When faced will a radical change, the best solution is to harmonise.

Equally, the political parties that are part of the GNU have divergent policies and perspectives or philosophy of life and the policies and perspectives must be harmonised for the collective good of society. We need a joint representative body in Parliament to manage divergent views of parliamentarians. Interoperability would be the greatest word for the GNU.

Author and life coach Mathebula has a PhD in construction management.

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