Wednesday, December 19, 2007

SA: hell in a handcart?

The Scotsman has an article today "Chaos on way as ANC hands Zuma top job" (here). The depressing prognosis for South Africa is illustrated by reader comments following the article. One, by "Media 1 - capetown", reads as follows (link here).

"Prior to 1994 South Africa was one of the safest nations on Earth. The suburbs were clean, the roads were good, the electricity never went out, the water always flowed from the taps, violent crime was something you saw on a movie screen, sanctions inspired innovation, invention and growth, school children were safe, the laws on the roads were strict and people adhered to them, ministers were held accountable for their actions, problems were solved and people both black and white were divided by a racist government.
Today: South Africa is the most violent nation on Earth, 52 000 rapes per annum, almost 40,000 murders, the lights are beginning to go off more than once per week, which leads to millions lost in business and chaos on the roads.
The rivers and dams are becoming contaminated, the municipalites are incapable of managing the problems, and the budget money is always stolen. The roads are chaos, and the metro police who are supposed to manage them are corrupt and inept. There can be a traffic jam consisting of hundreds of cars due to a power outage, and the metro police, instead of assisting the situation, will hand out fines to motorists who edge over a white line without completely coming to a standstill. It has become so bad that local business has had to train pointsmen to alleviate the problems on the roads.
The head of the metro police is up on drunk driving charges, he rolled his car on the motorway and even had his blood samples stolen from the hospital. He may never be charged (incidently, he was a former ANC activist who blew up McGoos bar, killing many during apartheid).
The Chief of the South African Police, Mr Selebi, is up on corruption charges, although he probably won't be forced to stand trial.
The Chief Whip Tony Yengeni defrauded parliament, got 5 years and was out in 4 months.
The Health Minister is an alcoholic who was given a liver transplant before others on the list. She is still drinking, never in parliament and drawing a massive salary

South Africa is a kind of laboratory for African abilities to run a complex modern, capitalist economy and state. The black majority inherited a functioning entity. And like Zimbabwe, it appears to be falling apart.

James Watson, referencing empirical research by a number of authors, identified the issue as IQ. I am not so sure: a functioning, scalable capitalist economy seems to additionally require personality attributes in the mass of the population such as:

  • high empathy (contra impulses to random violence against strangers - team player),
  • high conscientiousness (maintain essential processes even without immediate reward)
  • low neuroticism (maintain a level-headed reaction to interpersonal & other issues).
These, of course, are particular values of three of the factors from the famous five-factor model of personality (Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism). They are also the qualities employers tend to look for when recruiting. The other two factors are 'Openness to Experience' - positively correlated with IQ, and Extraversion.

Richard Lynn, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Ulster, wrote an article here about racial differences in personality, which makes depressing reading.

I hope it doesn't all end in tears.