Mailbox: Gigaba’s Visa rule – It’s about the psychology of being right

In Andrew Donaldson’s recent piece on the toxic visa furore, in his usual tone, Donaldson puts it all down to a capitalist plot. In this response, reader Brent Johnson blames the mess on the psychology of always wanting to be right. He refers to a book by Kathryn Schulz called: “Being Wrong – Adventures in the Margin of Error”. The book explores explores human emotions and as Brett puts it “why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken, and how this attitude toward error corrodes our relationships – whether between family members, colleagues, neighbours, or nations.” Johnson calls on the Home Affairs Minister to read it.

Malusi Gigaba - South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs
Malusi Gigaba – South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs

by Brett Johnson

To augment Donaldson’s hypothesis on understanding Gigaba’s deeply flawed assumptions on the underlying reasons for the child visa requirements, one only needs to look at one of many parallels: the recent “undesirability” deportation farce.

Those who follow these things will remember a court case in August of 2014 that I was forced into after immigration officials deported my wife on the back of deeply flawed legislation. She was labelled with the oft quoted and priceless moniker: “undesirable”. As were many, many others, some of whom joined our ultimately successful court action – Home Affairs having been ordered to allow the return of my wife immediately.

As if this was not enough, on Tuesday 24th March 2015, the constitutional court denied Home Affairs’ third appeal against this case, the third such one they had made and lost. You’d think they would get the message by now? No. The saga continues.

But it goes much deeper than this. It may be simply about the psychology of being right, a key component of the human condition and one that scales up exponentially into organisational and government psychology. The (white) devil capitalists are to blame, so let’s lie about some child trafficking figures. The end justifies the means after all. I’m reminded of the Nationalist Party and its metaphorical finger to the rest of the world regarding the legitimacy of apartheid. They, the Nats, were right. The rest of the world was wrong and nothing would change that. Until something did of course, thankfully.

Home Affairs is now the same, so absolutely adamant that rushed through, ill thought-out and “based on lies” legislation is correct. They are right and stuff anyone else who thinks differently. Because they have free reign with tax payers money, they can appeal and litigate as much as they like. If allowed, they would appeal directly to God, and if God handed down a case dismissal chiselled into a clay tablet they would still be right.  God would be wrong.

It’s this ethos that is common to so much of government that results in continual attacks on our constitution and the failure of much proposed legislation on constitutional muster. Being wrong is a humane and desirable human trait however.

There are upsides to your mistakes guys. Make it right and move on, we all screw up. Kathryn Schulz’s book “Being Wrong – Adventures in the Margin of Error” explores “why we find it so gratifying to be right and so maddening to be mistaken, and how this attitude toward error corrodes our relationships – whether between family members, colleagues, neighbours, or nations.”  Read it Malusi.