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Unisa’s Somadoda Fikeni leads national initiative projecting possible future outlooks for South Africa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa & Dr Somadoda Fikeni

If you want to spot a distant threat, scale the tallest tree you can find to gain an unobstructed view of what might be approaching. And if you want to spur South Africans into action when it comes to joining a public discourse on the country’s future, present them with possible scenarios that may disturb and even shock them.  Both of these are elements of Indlulamithi South Africa Scenarios 2030, a project which is set to stir the imaginations of all South Africans in the months to come.

Initiated by respected Unisa academic and well-known political commentator Dr Somadoda Fikeni, multinational Anglo American and the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA), the project consolidates research into three possible scenarios for a future South Africa: a country torn by deepening social divides, a nation experiencing increasing social cohesion and expansion, and a demoralised land of disorder and decay.

"We want South Africans across the spectrum of age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status to read through the different scenarios and recognise that they can help to create a stable, prosperous and socially cohesive country," says Fikeni.

Indlulamithi, literally translated from Nguni languages, means "above the trees". It is also the name for the giraffe. "Like the giraffe, we are looking above the trees towards a future South Africa that can meet the aspirations contained in our Constitution for a country that belongs to all who live in it – united in our diversity," says Fikeni. "We have already reached out to a variety of significant organisations to introduce the project, and in coming months, the scenarios, and the research behind them, will be disseminated through engagements with representatives of a wide variety of structures across the country, including decision-makers in government, business, academia and civil society."

The project’s launch on 21 June 2018 was attended by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa alongside former president Thabo Mbeki, and opposition party leaders Mmusi Maimane of the DA and Bantu Holomisa of the UDM. It was preceded by intensive conversations with a variety of stakeholders, including the main political formations in the country, civil society organisations, the three arms of government as well as faith-based organisations and NGOs. These conversations are set to continue with other stakeholders, including members of the public.  

Speaking at the launch President Ramaphosa cautioned that the process will provoke many South Africans. "Many will not agree with all the details of the three pictures painted by the Indlulamithi team, of our beloved country in 2030. However, the future is a choice and not an inevitable fate. We can all influence many of the choices that push our country in one direction or another."

Speaking of behalf of the Unisa community, Principal and Vice Chancellor, Prof Mandla Makhanya warmly welcomed the leadership and participation of an academic from Unisa in this significant initiative.

"This is an affirmation of the important role played by our university in providing thought leadership, knowledge development and the shaping of the agenda on issues of national and global importance," added Makhanya.