As interesting as the Indlulamithi scenarios are, they risk becoming irrelevant if they do not compel workshop participants to recognise and grapple with some sensitive issues that undermine social cohesion, says Ashraf Adam, CEO of the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA). Reflecting after the workshop in the city, he felt there was “superficiality in diagnosing the problems” and answering the key question: what would it take to build a cohesive nation?

Adam has no argument with the key driving forces Indlulamithi has identified – social inequality, resistance/resentment/reconciliation, and leadership/institutional capacity. But he considers that some of the underlying research has fallen short of exposing the true nature of these forces.

For example, he argues that the role of government is absolutely central and deserves more trenchant analysis. “You can’t reach any desired future if the bureaucracy is not able to transform itself and government policies continue to hamstring development.”

He cites the current approach to education which is a key factor in overcoming social inequality. If we are to be honest and bold in unpacking this, Adam argues, we need to say flatly there will be no more 30% pass rates in schools because institutionalising underperformance can never lead to equality.

“The core of what it takes to achieve a more equal country is being undermined by the very government that is tasked to fix it,” he says.

Adam remains hopeful about this moment in history, believing that it is an opportunity for civil society formations and elements in the state to drive a new social agenda. “We need to get the main actors to say no matter what we fight about, these are the fundamental matters we agree on, the non-negotiables for the society we desire.”