South Africa: We Risk Our Society's Future By Betting On a System That Produces Dysfunctional Leaders


The events of the past two weeks have brought into sharp focus the devastating results of selecting leaders based on popularity over other criteria. To avoid shipwrecking our country, it's time to design a better system of stewarding our collective needs.

There are no words to intellectualise the tragic circumstances we have seen unfold in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. In such times, it is natural to cast about for reasons - an explanation for why this is happening and who is responsible - although this is never a clear-cut process.

It is too easy to find someone - typically the president, or ex-president - or a group - disillusioned and disenfranchised people - to blame, but this is to accept lazy thinking and forget that "the purpose of a system is what it does (Posiwid)". This systems-thinking heuristic was coined by Stafford Beer to explain emergent behaviour.

Simply put, this means that what we wish a system would do is not always the same thing as what it actually does. Thus, democratic South Africa may have set out on paper to create a system that eradicated poverty and created jobs and prosperity. But in reality, it is a system that is...

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