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A Sense of Community

Date Released: Mon, 14 September 2015 16:19 +0200

By Professor Owen Skae, Associate Professor and Director of Rhodes University Business School


Journalist Barney Mthobothi recently said that there is ‘nothing common that expresses South African nationhood’; hence the problems of achieving social cohesion with the current socio-political leadership model. Yet its strength can lie in the diversity of its communities. This timeous book suggests how this diversity can be used successfully in a collaborative model in a glass that is ‘half full’, for the development of the nation. It emphasises that national development should be based on this diversity, allowing communities to contribute in their own individual way and in so doing, learn to become authentic citizens. Social cohesion grows from the ‘bottom up’. It cannot be imposed from the ‘top down’.

The challenge is churches and others working together in unity on ’common ground’ for authentic community development, an authentic citizenry and thus a successful democracy. Social cohesion should then occur, impacting the cities and the nation. Leadership at all levels needs to be a ‘listening ear’; participative as opposed to ‘controlling’.

The biblical perspective (Part 2 of each chapter) reflects and advises on the secular section (Part1). The whole format is developed on the basis of Christian authors writing about the church having failed to be involved in the development of the nations (as biblically required). Known as the ‘8 mountains’, South Africa’s ‘mountain’ to be overcome, in the view of the author, is holistic participative community development through a ‘bottom up’ process.

In building restorative communities, the entitlement mentality and ‘blame’ culture should recede and communities functioning on the basis of ‘what can we do TOGETHER to move our community forward?’ The South African population is quoted as almost 80% Christian, so the churches involvement and commitment in community development together with others, should ultimately have a significant positive impact on the development of the nation.

An introduction emphasises the author’s heart cry, ‘South Africa needs more reality and less ideology’. The remaining chapters cover democracy growing effectively through community development, and the need to turn matters through 180° to achieve restorative communities with their own agendas, and emergent leaders. The micro economy, sustainability of communities, context and culture are discussed.   Her experiences as a Christian politician overseas committed to community participation and two South African case studies illustrate method.  Understanding the need for personal and collective accountability, the healing of festering wounds in a restorative community, and increased levels of consciousness are also addressed leading to the ultimate requirement of ‘Togetherness’.

The concluding chapter suggests that a second liberation is needed in South Africa: the development of participatory communities and the need for debate and dialogue to effect that ‘change’; it requires a mind-set change from top leadership to the ordinary citizen in both previously disadvantaged and more affluent communities. ‘Are we willing to change and become an example to Africa and a troubled world?’ says the author.’

A summary, bibliography and illustrations complete the book.


MARGARET FERGUSON (Author) – email margferg@mweb.co.za