Elephants and Zebras

elephants and zebras


Imagine an oasis in the Kalahari desert, isolated by many miles of searing desert. A large tribe of elephants live in the vicinity of the oasis, eating the vegetation surrounding the water of the oasis. The fertility of the vegetation is maintained mainly by the excrement from a herd of unusually productive zebras, as well as the elephant poo. The elephants outnumber the zebra by about 7 to 1. The elephants are lead by an ugly and uncompromising matriarch. The zebras lack a clear leader.

As the number of elephants grow, the situation in the oasis becomes clearly unsustainable. The vegetation dwindles, even though the elephants are starving. Despite their best efforts, the zebras cannot provide enough fertiliser to keep the oasis going. The elephants resent the zebras, and the zebras resent the elephants.

An explorer comes upon the oasis, and is asked for his advice. He considers various options.

  1. He could accuse the elephants and their leader of being extremely stupid to allow their numbers to grow beyond their capacity to feed themselves. While satisfying, this is essentially pointless.
  2. He could try to squeeze more fertiliser out of the zebras, to grow more food. However, the zebras are shown to either die or leave with this approach.
  3. He could ask other oases to ship scarce food across the desert to this particular oasis. Nice idea, not going to happen for any sustainable period.
  4. He could propose to drastically reduce the number of elephants to sustainable levels by culling. The elephants (and the WWF) are against this idea.
  5. He could suggest that the elephants and zebras search for other oases, and dispatch sustainable numbers of elephants and zebras to these new oases, with strict instructions not to compromise the sustainability of their new oases. Feasible, if there are other oases, and if the elephants and zebras will listen to advice. Although this oasis is probably doomed, other oases may still prosper with correct management.
  6. He could simply walk away and leave the elephants and zebras to their miserable fate. Most likely scenario.

This is essentially the scenario facing South Africa. What is our best way forward? I believe that the only way out of the current mess is to provide working examples of the beneficial effects of good governance, without the constraints of the current setup. In other words, the deliberate and systematic establishment of independent territories in the vicinity of South Africa, with better governance models. Remote and rare examples like Hong Kong and Singapore have little impact in Africa.

What is your suggestion?

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  1. #1 by proplib on September 21, 2015 - 6:13 pm

    Walk away.

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