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