To me, there are few words as scary as the word: “potential.” As an adjective, it means: “having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future.” And that’s the problem right there: No one knows what that “something” is supposed to be.
Many years ago, I heard this “potentially” daunting word when a friend of mine bought a clapped-out Studebaker Golden Hawk; which he intended to restore to its former glory. For you youngsters out there: the Studebaker was a real Car – in the days when sex was safe, and cars had style and character – like us old farts of today. Safe, and characters; all of us.
But that’s not important right now.
My friend bought the car from an old lady who had recently become a widow after her *untimely husband’s death; which killed him till he died from it.
So there we were – my friend and I – me looking at this old rust bucket; and him telling me that the car had “potential.”
He stripped the car down to the bare shell, nuts, and bolts. Then he came up with a clever ploy – he invited his friends over (me included) for a series of braais. But each time, before we got down to the serious business of eating and drinking, we were expected to help him with overhauling the Stud. Washing parts, removing caked grease and mud, grinding, sanding, panel beating, bleeding, rubberising, swearing, spaying, cussing – and generally working our backsides off – and missing out on some valuable drinking time.
All because the car had “potential.”
Now here’s the tragic bit: Long before the car was fully restored, my friend ran out of money (spent on imported spare parts), friends (who knew the difference between having a braai and being suckered into working your hands to the bone), and his wife (who left, because he was always busy with his potential car). His life was ruined.
The next time I ran into the “potential” menace, was when I wanted to buy a plot near Hartbeespoortdam. Older and wiser; I wasn’t fooled when the smiling salesman told me that the property had unlimited potential.
It had the potential to bankrupt me – leaking thatched roof, French drain completely blocked, electrical wiring shot to hell, rusted plumbing, geyser not working, etc, etc.
So I bought another plot nearby; with no potential (and no problems), for a few thousand more. Happiness.
Then, in 1994, the non-statutory forces (Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda, Ciskei, MK, and APLA) integrated with the SADF. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was formed. I was tasked with the assessment, interviews, and placement of these forces (fosses?) into the various Corps (Infantry, Technical, Signals, etc), and their musterings within these Corps.
Now let me tell you, I WAS THERE. It was a gigantic, big, colossal stuff-up:
Most of the members of the non-statutory forces had very little (and in some cases, no) schooling. Some were barely literate. A large percentage had “Diplomas” and “Certificates” that were totally worthless. Many of their “qualifications” and documents were clearly forgeries. They had certified copies with strange signatures and homemade stamps on them. Hundreds of these candidates had three or more different identity documents.
You could taste the dishonesty, duplicity, and deception in the air. Not a word of this massive sham was ever reported in the media. (Omertà, Sakkie. Look it up.)
But, because of the volatile political situation, these people just HAD to be integrated into the newly formed SANDF. Viva, Rainbow Nation! Viva!
So, the “Powers that BEE,” invented the Potential Test:
The candidates were required to write a simple test. (I promise you, it was more or less on par with what our kids used to do in grade 5 – in those days.)
Should a candidate fail, he/she would simply rewrite the very same Potential Test the next day, after having been coached and told the answers by their “Leedas,” the previous evening.
And that was that: Once they had the “Potential,” they could choose which Corps they wanted to join. They were then employed as “Soldiers” in the SANDF.
After the integration, the standards and norms of the Defence Force took an immediate and fatal nosedive from which it has never recovered. All because of the “Potential.”
Now, here’s what scares the wax out my ears:
According to news reports, Helen Zille has welcomed tribal chiefs and elders from Limpopo into the DA.
Zille: “Under the right leadership the province (Limpopo) has great potential.”
Jawellnofine, Helen. You obviously don’t know what it potentially means.
*untimely husband – he was always late
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.