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Narcissus beware, the pool is fouled

David grew up in the Free State, where his father worked on the gold mines. He has variously been a barman, labourer, truck driver, roughneck, trader, project manager and is now a full time writer. He has had a column in Business Day and the now demised Weekender. David has an unusual talent for making people open up to him, which he later turns into a gripping read. He gained nationwide fame after he completed the biography of Joost van der Westhuizen, Joost: The Man in the Mirror. He has recently completed a biography on Father Stan Brennan, Colour Blind Faith.

Far more worrying than its collective lack of conscience (which I bemoaned previously), is the distinct impression the ANC suffers from group NPD – Narcissistic Personality Disorder. NPD is described as a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration and a lack of empathy. Fits them quite nicely, don’t you think?

For an individual to be diagnosed with NPD they must demonstrate some of the following symptoms:

  • Exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements. Anyone spring to mind?
  • Believes he or she is “special”, “unique” and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people. Oh dear, that has a familiar ring.
  • Is exploitative and takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends. Not the ANC, come on…
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviour or has that attitude. (Hitachi anyone?)
  • Has a sense of entitlement – when it comes to the ANC, not even arguable.
  • Lacks empathy – is unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others. I’m sure all the people taking part in the ubiquitous service delivery protests would agree this is abundantly evident in the ANC government.
  • A refusal to accept blame or responsibility for actions. A recent classic example was Julius Malema on Redi Direko’s show on 702. When challenged on why he had arrived for his interview in a car without number plates, his disingenuous reply was something to the effect that he wasn’t driving the car so it wasn’t his responsibility to ensure it had number plates. Of course.

Another example of refusing to accept responsibility could be seen emblazoned on the newspaper billboards last week, “Duarte blames media for losing job”. Unquestionably it was the media’s fault. Right from the beginning of her forgettable ministerial career, the media has highlighted her shortcomings, (amazing how one person can have so many). And if that message eventually got through to her superiors and convinced them to retire her, then she is right, it was the media’s fault. If it wasn’t so pathetic, it would be funny.

Although it is now almost history, think about the debacle surrounding the Castor Semenya affair. So intent was Athletics South Africa on not taking responsibility for their CEO lying, the ASA board (or at least some of them) actually supported him. So obviously, accepting the blame was viewed as being worse than lying to the world. In his “apology” Leonard Chuene said, “I now realise that it was an error of judgement and …we at ASA believe we acted in the best interests of the athlete”.

Oh, so it wasn’t a lie but, “an error of judgement”? No moral transgression there; so that’s alright then. And, of course, his error of judgement had a noble motive.

I know it has been analysed to death, but isn’t the Eskom debacle exactly the same thing? Despite it being a cock-up of monumental proportions, has anyone taken the blame for it? Regardless of repeated warnings over years about the looming shortage of power in the country, nothing was done. When ultimately a scapegoat was found in CEO Jacob Maroga, did he fall on his sword and take responsibility? (The question is rhetorical).
The frightening thing is that exactly the same is happening to the country’s water. And is anyone heeding the warnings? The minister of water and environmental affairs Buyelwa Sonjica began her mysteriously delayed “Green Drop Report” by saying, “Let me begin by expressing my disappointment over the leaking of this report to the press and others…” You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see as far as she is concerned, it’s not what is in the report that is disappointing; it’s that it was “leaked” (pun intended).

Later she says, “Yes, the findings of the inaugural Green Drop Report are certainly not favourable, but all is not lost.” Anyone who has read the Green Drop Report will know that South Africa’s water infrastructure couldn’t be in a more parlous state if it tried. So the “findings” are not only “not favourable”, they are, in fact, calamitous. But thank God, “all is not lost”. Does she then go on to say what she is doing about the unfavourable findings?

No. Instead she says, “The report confirms the need for improvement of waste water services and requires pioneering initiatives that would result in sustainable turnaround.”

Doesn’t that fill you with confidence that she has a handle on the impending disaster and is dealing with it? Or am I perhaps being a little too cynical if I see this statement as having large tracts of wriggle room for when she is finally called to explain why she didn’t prevent the disaster from happening. Especially since she had the report that warned of a looming crisis of very scary proportions, and did nothing other than witter on about pioneering initiatives and sustainable turnarounds?

Individuals with NPD are often ambitious and capable, but their inability to tolerate disagreement or criticism, along with a lack of empathy, make it difficult for such individuals to work co-operatively with others or to achieve long-term professional goals. Applied to the ANC, I’m not sure which is worse: the fact they don’t have a collective or individual consciences, or that they appear to have group and individual NPD.


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