The first time I heard the term “cray cray” I was in Paternoster, the West Coast centre of operations for petty pilferers, tik monsters and venal property owners. The person shouting “cray cray” at me was a kid of about nine. He had a plastic bag full of undersized crayfish. I bartered him down to almost nothing, then went to the beach and threw them back into the sea.
The next time I heard the term “cray-cray” it had a hyphen in it and was clearly meant to indicate that a couple of buttons in my brain were missing. Not because of what I did with the crayfish, if that’s what you’re thinking. In Paternoster, the bar for insanity is so low that sausage dogs step over it.
Watching the political phantasmagoria of the last few days, I began wondering if the likes of Helen Zille and Mamphela Ramphele had not, perhaps, gone completely bonkers. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility.
According to the department of health, one out of four South Africans has been or is affected by mental illness. That means around 500 employees at Addington Hospital alone are not well in the head. Going by what I can remember from my stay there a few years ago, they all work in the kitchen. With the possible exception of two, who might still be working in the orthopedic ward.
It also means that six or seven cabinet ministers are barking mad, but this comes as something of less than a shock to us.
More worrying is that thirteen million South Africans are on nodding terms with mental illness. This includes around a million white people, most of whom I expect live in Pretoria.
Oddly enough, the statistic of one in four doesn’t apply to ex-girlfriends. Certainly when it comes to women with whom I have dallied, that figure jumps to three in four. The deranged have always been drawn to me. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.
What this country needs more than anything, apart from state-subsidised beer, is a method of mass diagnosis. Forget the census. It would be far more helpful to have psychologists going from house to house identifying the nutjobs and dishing out useful drugs. Of course, you’re going to get a lot of people pretending to be unhinged just to get their hands on a bag of free pharmaceuticals, but psychologists are trained to weed out the imposters.
October is Mental Health Awareness Month. We can’t wait that long. By October, we might all be wearing straitjackets. We need to act now.
It’s important to remember that mental illness manifests itself in many forms. It can range from voting for Agang to putting an ad on Gumtree for someone to sever, cook and eat your willy free of charge. That’s more of a German thing, though.
There are certain illnesses common to all South African. If, for instance, you regularly read the newspapers, watch SABC or saw the photograph of Lindiwe Sisulu kissing Blade Nzimande, you almost certainly suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Millions of us also suffer from depression. But, thanks to the government, there are treatment centres in every city, town and village. The only link I can find between alcohol and depression is when you drive to one of these centres on a Saturday afternoon and find it shut. Luckily, the townships are full of informal treatment centres that stay open until the early hours of the morning.
We need to start diagnosing our politicians because the combination of power and insanity is a dangerous one. Once we know what they are suffering from, we can treat them by spiking their food with the relevant medication. On second thoughts, voting them out is probably easier. And cheaper than meds, too.
Here are some snap diagnoses based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fourth edition).
Jacob Zuma – Narcissistic personality disorder with hyperactive sexual desire disorder.
Kgalema Motlanthe – Catatonia.
Helen Zille – Dementia with delusions.
Mamphela Ramphela – Dependent personality disorder with delusions.
Fikile Mbalula – Tourette’s with hallucinations.
Tina Joemat-Pettersson – Histrionic personality disorder.
ANC backbenchers – Narcolepsy.
Civil service – Factitious disorder.
Julius Malema – Disruptive behaviour disorder.
Gatsha Buthelezi – Paranoid personality disorder with delusions.
Boeremag leader Tom Vorster – Intermittent explosive disorder with delusions.
Dr Wouter Basson – Dissociative amnesia.