THE ORIGIN OF DICK F. WEISSMANN
January 25, 2021
The debates have been going for decades, but the true origins of Richard Friedrich Weissmann - Dick F. Weissmann - remain unresolved.
Arguably the most widely touted origin story has its roots in the South African military during the conscription years which lasted from the late sixties to the early nineties. Junior servicemen, especially those opposed to forced enlistment, would in private refer to a loathed superior as a "a real Richard Friedrich Weissmann". This was code for said superior being a d..k, a f.....g wise man (according to himself).
If overheard by an overzealous serviceman and reported to a higher ranking one, the offender would claim that the superior under discussion had been favorably likened to a great German composer. If further prodded, it would be explained that the superior's command of his subordinates was as ingenious as a master composer's arrangement of a symphony.
The creation of Dick F. Weissmann has also been accredited to none other than the former president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe.
Robert Mugabe won a scholarship in 1949 to read English Literature and History at Fort Hare. It was while studying at Fort Hare, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Robert Sobukwe, that Robert Mugabe experienced his political awakening.
The legend is that Robert Mugabe, quite out of character, rose during a lecture on Richard III and abruptly left the auditorium. He was heard laughing uncontrollably in the passage and wore a constant smile for at least two weeks thereafter. In Richard III, the ugly hunchback who was "determined to prove a villain and hate the idle pleasures of these days", Robert Mugabe had found the ideal moniker for the oppressor of his people. "A d..k - that is the f.....g white man" was apparently the line delivered to raucous response by Robert Mugabe while explaining the significance of Richard III to fellow Fort Hare ANCYL members.
In order to not draw unwanted attention to his use of this taunt, the words "white man" were Germanized to "Weissmann". It is suggested, furthermore, that the "F." in Dick F. Weissmann, as created by Robert Mugabe, was also understood as an initial for "Frederick". This is believed to have been a reference to Frederick Warde, who played Richard III in the 1912 film adaptation directed by Andre Calmetes and James Keane.
Those who argue in favor Dick F. Weissmann originating in the SA military point to the rare use of "Frederick" when stating the full name. Furthermore, the emergence of Dick F. Weissmann as a meme in the SA IT project management landscape is attributed to the number of current and former practitioners who had their initial exposure to IT and project management during military service.
In favor of the Robert Mugabe origin of Dick F. Weissmann is the high incidence of "Weissmann" in jibes common among groups who were oppressed during Apartheid. Phrases like "don't be a Weissmann" or "you act like you're the Weissmann" or "who made you the Weissmann" are often used to indicate dissatisfaction with domineering persons.
There are naturally many who claimed to have worked with, and to even have befriended, the actual Richard Friedrich Weissmann.
The details of these accounts vary significantly, as do the backstories that are provided for Dick F. Weissmann. According to one "former colleague" Dick F. Weissmann arrived in Cape Town on 8 September 1948 as a WW2 orphan. Even though his deceased parents were believed to have been Nazis, in the most gracious of gestures he was adopted by Levi and Ruth Weissmann - a Jewish couple from the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town.
Another former IT project manager spoke fondly of Dick F. Weissmann as his "slightly haphazard" "former mentor". According to this source, Dick F. Weismann was to serve as a 17 year old private in Rommel's Africa campaign, but went AWOL upon landing on the continent. He made his way down to South Africa, only to be enlisted and returned to the same theatre of war, albeit fighting on the other side second time around.
The common thread through most "firsthand" accounts revolve around Dick F. Weissmann being of German origin, a brutally honest contrarian, and only being able to code while excessively intoxicated.
Over the decades gracious software engineers have hacked government systems to create an identification and income tax numbers for Richard Friedrich Weissmann. This made Dick F. Weissmann a legal person as real as any legal person is required to be. Furthermore, it enabled him to be recommended, employed*, promoted, blamed for failures, and fired if required. From this point onwards the impact and infamy of Dick F. Weissmann in the South African IT project management scene truly took off.
Executives who signed his contracts and later ordered his firing remain none the wiser to this day. This pattern is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, since all well regarded research on the subject, weighted and averaged, has found that roughly 85% of executives do not read. A strikingly similar percentage know less than half of the persons directly reporting to them, and a statistically insignificant amount - this is for male and female executives - know any male employees in their lines not reporting to them directly. Separate research has shown the balance to measure high in openness and gullibility. It should therefore be possible to keep these executives off the trail by employing minimal misdirection.
Whereas the origin of Dick F. Weissmann will be disputed ad infinitum, the fact is that he has become a meme in IT project management in South Africa. He is the fall guy when no one else can be blamed, the butt of the joke, the safe alias for an implicated character during a dangerous testimony, and a fountain pessimistic sarcasm relating to all things IT project management.