William Saunderson-Meyer
William Saunderson-Meyer

Popular psychology for SA’s politically frustrated

Forget the Rorschach test. There’s no need to peer at inkblots to divine psychological conditions.

The ANC government is a living breathing Petri dish, incubating almost every cognitive deviance to have graced a psychiatrist’s couch. Let’s start with multiple personality disorder. Or could it rather be mirrored-self misidentification, the delusion that the person in the mirror is another, real person?

Here’s the scenario.

ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe says that the ANC national executive committee (NEC) had decided to call upon the ANC government to “rapidly resolve” the crises plaguing state-owned enterprises.

Huh? President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet and the NEC are to all intents and purposes the same thing. The consistently incompetent chief executives selected to run these state entities are, almost without exception, ANC cadres. They serve at the pleasure of the relevant ANC minister, who in turn serves in the ANC cabinet, as well as on the ANC national executive.

Or how about some delusion and cognitive distortion? Upon her return from China this week, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi berated SA’s media.

“We’ve achieved a lot in terms of improving the lives of our people, but our media are not doing enough to share these stories of success…” The minister demanded that the media “play their roles by reporting accurate and balanced stories … stories that will promote our mutual understanding and friendship”.

It would take many years of Freudian analysis to disentangle the spider web of contradictions and mental sleight of hand on display here. But as a starting point, let’s boil it down to simple political realities.

SA is a democracy in which the media’s independence is constitutionally protected from state “expectations”. In China the media exists to further the objectives of the Chinese Communist Party.

As Muthambi presumably knows, assuming she read the manual, the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is a public broadcaster à la British Broadcasting Corporation, not a state broadcaster à la China. But the political transgendering of the SABC from the former to the latter is already well advanced, allowing its chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng — he of the faked matric certificate — to promise that 70% of what is broadcast will be “good news”.

Our final case study:

In September 2014, government promised to convene a “task force” of “stakeholders” to examine restrictive visa regulations announced by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba. It never happened.

In February 2015, Zuma repeated the promise in his State of the Nation address. It never happened.

In May 2015, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe reassured the World Economic Forum that SA was “prioritising the revision as a matter of extreme urgency”. Nothing happened.

This week, Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said that cabinet had appointed a “task team” to look into the grievous damage caused by the new laws.

Gigaba’s consistent response? “There is no way we are changing it [the new regulations].”

Okay, aspirant psychologists and psychiatrists. Your homework is to identify, using the classification categories of American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychological aberrations evidenced in the behaviours described above.

Confine yourself to no more than a dozen disorders and, please, megalomania and schizophrenia are too obvious to be included.

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