Finweek English Edition - - MANAGEMENT -

hen in South Africa, ev­ery morn­ing you feel like you must leave this coun­try be­cause t he re­port­ing con­cen­trates on the op­po­site of pos­i­tive.” You might be for­given for think­ing th­ese are the words of some fed-up cit­i­zen about to em­i­grate to sunny Aus­tralia. In fact, they were ut­tered re­cently by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma to a group of jour­nal­ism stu­dents from the Tsh­wane Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy. He was lament­ing the con­stant me­dia fo­cus on the neg­a­tive as­pects of his ad­min­is­tra­tion, not­ing that “too much neg­a­tive re­port­ing makes peo­ple dis­like their coun­try”.

What Zuma failed to ac­knowl­edge is that the in­com­pe­tence of his Gov­ern­ment is the main rea­son why there is so much neg­a­tiv­ity to re­port on in the first place. As Euse­bius McKaiser noted in The Star: “Why do peo­ple choose weak crit­i­cism against Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma when there is so much good crit­i­cism to choose from?”

To my mind, it’s like get­ting out the shower and blam­ing the mir­ror be­cause you look fat. If Zuma doesn’t like what oth­ers see when they hold up a mir­ror to him and his party, then he should work to en­sure that there is noth­ing neg­a­tive to re­port on in the first place. In other words, he should act to root out the in­com­pe­tence and cor­rup­tion that has grown ram­pant on his watch.

How­ever, Zuma is dismissive of ac­cu­sa­tions of in­com­pe­tence. In fact, he has of­ten gone on record say­ing ex­actly the op­po­site: “To achieve all our goals, we must hold our­selves to the high­est stan­dards of ser­vice, pro­bity and in­tegrity. To­gether we must build a so­ci­ety that prizes ex­cel­lence and re­wards ef­fort, which shuns lazi­ness and in­com­pe­tence.”

It’s easy to be cyn­i­cal about such state­ments when they ap­pear to be com­pletely at odds with what we see hap­pen­ing on the ground ev­ery day in SA. We nat­u­rally as­sume that Zuma is ‘talk­ing pol­i­tics’, say­ing what he thinks peo­ple want to hear even though he knows the op­po­site is true. How­ever, this may not be the case at all. In fact, he may gen­uinely be un­aware of the in­com­pe­tence around him. THE DUN­NING-KRUGER EF­FECT It comes down to a cu­ri­ous phe­nom­e­non known as the Dun­ning-Kruger ef­fect. This is a cog­ni­tive bias or men­tal trap where in­com­pe­tent peo­ple not only per­form a task badly, but they even lack the com­pe­tence to re­alise that they’ve done a bad job, and they

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