Collective stupidity empowers bad leaders

2019-05-23 23:31

The old tsotsis van Pretoria called it Silver Town. Actually, it is Silverton, which used to be a bustling industrial manufacturing hub.

About 50km away, there was another industrial zone called New Era, in Springs, which is where Bra Sneada got his swag. He walked as if there were hydraulic springs in his brogue shoes.

When you greeted him: “Hoe is dit, Bra Sam?”

“It’s correct,” he would reply.

Sneada is a nickname for Sam, just as Mingus is for Charles, Jim for James and Panyaza for Andries.

The name Sneada comes from the famous US golfer Sam Snead, who died in 2002. Snead is regarded as one of the greatest golfers in history, winning 82 Professional Golf Association (PGA) tours. His runner-up, Tiger Woods, has won 81 tours. Snead dominated the 1950s and the 1960s, and by right dominated the newspapers with his American style, which was big in the townships back then.

If you do not know the name Charles Mingus, I will not waste my time on you, son. Google him.

Six Panyaza was the famed Moroka Swallows footballer Andries Maseko, AKA Six Mabone, named after the behemoth cars from Detroit, with their six brake lights. Life, I am sorry to say, was cheaper than petrol in those days, whose access you could have sworn was a human right.

So when those big machines overtook you, the indicators would flick and the old taxi drivers in their straw hats would praise it and say: “Iyapanyaza!”

Panyaza was the grand planetoid that walked the earth, washing his own car and polishing his own boots.

The magic of a star is not in how he behaves when he is up high, but in how he deals with ordinary people.

This year’s election is over and the politicians have received what they wanted – power.

In their severe criticism of one another, no one spoke about how they would restart the industrial engines and give jobs to our undereducated youngsters. No one spoke about how they would help get people away from the fringes of the economy into respectable employment to create a society where all members have a meaningful stake that they have to protect.

The message from their silence is clear. Steve Biko said it years ago: “Black man, you are on your own.” It was easy to say back then because the people in government were white. To reinterpret Biko, we need to understand that the parent is now solely responsible for their own child. This happens at a time when our communities are broken and the social system that provided a safety net has broken down.

Many people seem to think that things will get better. I say, provide the evidence.

In the lack thereof, I say it is better to say you hope things will get better because where there is hope, there’d better be precaution too.

In the past 25 years or so, South Africans have relegated their lives to the government.

They are looking for saviours, either as people or as institutions. We know from experience that a human being cannot be a saviour because they have faults. Now we are told to put all our faith in institutions.

The question that the pundits are failing to ask is: What good are institutions if they can be broken by one man?

Thomas Malone, an organisational theorist and professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, writes about collective intelligence in his book Superminds.

Collective intelligence is the intelligence of groups, which is what is glaringly lacking in South Africa today.

What is ubiquitous in our country is collective stupidity.

The solution to our economic problems and, by extension, our dignity will not come from leaders, but from ordinary people, one step and one spring at a time.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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September 15 2019