On parliament buffoonery and sucky selections

2014-11-21 10:40

The recent buffoonery in parliament unfortunately confirms that leaders put forward by many of the political parties during the elections did not deserve our vote.

I put this down to a cultural problem in South Africa – we simply suck at selecting. Whether it is citizens in elections, party members in selecting party bosses, electing community leaders, TV talent show judges, TV bosses, sports coaches, judges, prosecutors, corporate leaders, union leaders, public institution leaders, even some of our friends, we simply suck. Family, well.. what choice do we have. Granted we are better at some forms of selection: Rugby, soccer and cricket! We are all experts at rugby, soccer and cricket selections! Maybe it is easier when we have from so many talents to choose from.

Yet, even here we suck where it matters. We rely on old worn out ideas like the way we rely on old worn out rugby forwards. We rely on old worn out ideas like those one or two cricketers, serial chokers come that crucial moment. We rely on old worn out ideas like the way we rely on strikers that often shoot above the bar. Why would a country brimming with amazing talent suck at selecting? Because we have a history of poor selecting. We do not know how to select to win.

We do not select those who can make us all winners. We select those that favour our parochial little interests. We make symbolic selections (race, heritage language, province, skin colour etc). We insist that those who are similar to us get selected. Yet these silly fantasy fixed symbolic selections have real material effects. Take parliamentary buffoons. Investors will use those television images to decide whether to select this country to invest in or divest from. And investors are pretty aggressive in their selections. No place for losers there (well, most times). It is time we started revising our selection strategies. Make it dynamic, make it responsive. If someone sucks after given a chance, select someone else. If someone is not fit, he just does not get selected.

How to define fitness? People that can get us the results that make us all winners. How to judge fitness? For one, they should be skilled in the task at hand – whether it is being cool under pressure, understanding the law, understanding the rules of debate, how to manage public funds, even the difference between private and public funds, being able to speak, think coherently, count etc.

Now there is nothing like a good dose of challenging training or education to make you more skilled in these areas. This combined with a self-reliant, hardworking, persistent human being will be potent in getting the job done. In politics we are sending in playschool clowns and bullies to address Mike Tyson like challenges. We better start making the right choices before the remaining talent left here migrate to places they are valued, and the rest of the world starts deselecting us.

Because like it or not when the stakes are high, it is competency not equity that matters.

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