Personality traits of South African Politicians

Front Nationaal

Personality traits of South African Politicians
Personality traits of South African Politicians

It has been argued for years that traffic officers, nurses and teachers share the same personality traits and therefore choose their specific occupations. The same applies to the majority of politicians in a ‘democracy’ like South Africa:

• at the risk of being stereotypical and prejudiced, it is a fact that a huge number of politicians are attracted to democracy because of power. Still more are attracted because of greed. Only a very small minority have traceable community commitment and awareness before their political careers.

Democracy is the ideal system for corruption to flourish and for personal empires to be built. This is because the democratic representative is dealing not with his own finances, but with the finances of a faceless mass. The elitist idea of democracy is also prone to nepotism, egotism and self-enrichment. Again, all these traits are in direct conflict with those ideals ascribed to democracy where public participation, service to the electorate and merit are advocated but never applied.

Andrew Heywoord (Political Ideas and Concepts, MacMillan Press 1994) argues that since the twentieth century political theories have increasingly been influenced by biological ideas. Personality, then, influences politics as personality is brought about by the biological make-up of man. Konrad Lorenz in 1963 suggested that aggression was a natural drive found in all species, including the human species. Richard Dawkins in 1976 held that selfishness and altruism have their origins in biology.

Man, not being equal – as explained earlier – do not share a universal character based upon genes. There are fundamental biological differences amongst human beings and these are of political significance. Furthermore, perceptions and concepts are shaped in these biological beings by, amongst others, circumstances of language, location, morality and civilized outlook on life.

• Genetics play a part in sport, culture and inevitably politics. History is littered with grandfather-father-son successions in politics, just like in sport. Some people are “genetically programmed” to exercise power over others. This is a personality trait, just as much as it is the culmination of the location and sphere of life during maturing. FW de Klerk entered politics through his father senator Jan de Klerk; Pieter Mulder entered through his father minister Connie Mulder; the Mbekis, Tambos and Mandelas come from a line of family political involvement.
• Dawkins, drawing from Darwin’s theories, has argued that every gene has a selfish streak and seeks its own survival (survival of the fittest). He argues that the “selfishness” can be modified if taught generosity and altruism. The selfishness thus is shaped by the surroundings and location of the biological man. This is the strength of the elite; that they are moulded by the elite. On the other hand, Peter Kropotnin argued that human nature has a highly developed capacity for cooperation and mutual aid.

Both these arguments ring true – but with the distinction that Kropotnin’s human nature subscribes to the majority of humans, while Dawkins’ varies from very strong in the elite to weaker in the electorate.
• Politics in personal terms holds that history and politics are made by individuals who impress their own will upon the political process. Mussolini, Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Ghandi, Thatcher, De Klerk, Mandela, Zuma – the list is endless. The relationship between these personalities and the organs (political parties) they use to impress their will on the electorate is well documented through history. While some of these personalities did well in the public sphere, most are documented as being dictatorial.
Power-hungry politicians have the tendency to be advocates of centralization and standardisation. While they see it as “keeping the finger on the pulse”, the true reason for this is a bureaucratic streak which does not allow for dissent or different viewpoints.
• Centralization of state functions and powers is a feature of all the dictatorships in history. “Empire building” is a strong characteristic of dictators and the so-called democratic state is the ideal vehicle to advance this. With power in the hand of the sole head of state (and simultaneously also the leader of the governing party) loyalty to the person and party is the only criterium and these dictators usually have only a handful of strong followers in powerful positions – the rest of positions are filled with persons that do not pose a threat to the dictator – another duality in the merit debate in a democracy. It is nowhere more evident as in Zuma’s ANC with his lapdog cabinet; and in the hold Zille exercised on the DA and Mulder on the FF+.

It is also demoralizing to see to what extent empire building has numbed the general population to what really is going on. The electorate seldom questions how public funds are spent by “empires”. Government departments, municipalities, social welfare organs and even non-profit organisations find it quite in order to spend up to 30% of allocated funds on salaries (it is even set as the norm in certain democracies) while an even amount is spent on other operational expenses such as travelling allowances, entertainment and equipment, corporate vehicles and general luxuries – while an independent breakdown of figures show that these utility service organs spend not even half of their budgets on those things the money was allocated for in the first place. The practice is so widespread that it is even considered as “normal” in a democratic state – a sad sate of affairs, indeed.

• Greed is often underestimated in politics. Democratic politicians in a capitalist state will, at any possible opportunity, declare that they “can earn more in the private sector than their income as public servants”. This is true on the surface only: the reality is that politicians’ greed has a subtleness lying just underneath the surface. Corruption is rife in democratic states. Because of the nature of democracy, opportunities for corruption abound. State tenders, positions, special circumstances… Maslow, in his hierarchy of needs, pointed out that all humans function in a need/desire environment and that they are constantly seeking to satisfy these needs. The capitalist system in democracy is, indeed, based on this assumption. Capitalism can only function in a system of supply and demand. As long as businessmen in the private sector need the stamp of approval of an elected official there will be a supply of dubious dealings to satisfy the needs of the greedy politician.

Greediness also flourishes in a system where people are working with huge amounts of money not belonging to them. Human nature is such that money lying around without a face being put to it (as in tax money) is a major attraction for dubious dealings, syphoning off of money, using it as a bargaining tool, misspending it on shady projects where the politician himself would not invest his own money.

Personality traits other than the hunger for power and greed, which are also dominant in a fair percentage of politicians include “passing the buck” – an inability to accept responsibility – tantamount to cowardice. Whether it be the Holocaust, human violations in South America and China, atrocities in Africa or Iraq: in the end it was the foot soldiers who had to take the blame and punishment, while the leaders concocted deals to safeguard themselves against justice. History is rife with dictators finding refuge in neutral states whenever their despotic governments are overthrown.

• Conclusion: Politics in a democratic/socialist state is a lucrative career for people with certain undeniable characteristics. While this is not true of all politicians, it is true of the majority of politicians – especially the “career politicians”. As long as politics is infested with these undesirable personality traits there will be direct and indirect engineering to satisfy the greediness and hunger for power of these individuals.

• Arguments identified:
FRONT NATIONAL base our search for suitable candidates and potential office bearers on the following:
1. No individual should be given power without a clause to end the power immediately and unconditionally within a reasonable time frame. A reasonable time frame is NOT a five year period between elections.
2. Public office should preferably be filled on a voluntary basis by people understanding that it is an office of service to the community and in service of the community. These office bearers must be scrutinized and conflict of interest, hidden agendas and opportunities for corruption and nepotism must be deciding factors.
3. Where public money is concerned every office should have counterbalances from an independent body which have absolute power of entering and investigating.
4. At present the Front National executive are not paid. What they do, they do on principle. Running the party is out of mostly their own pockets and through own effort. That will stay the same. We have had a few people who thought FN to be a quick route to fame, money or power (wink wink), but they are usually sniffed out very early.

Hannes Engelbrecht
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