A few months ago, author William Gumede described Zuma as someone with a narcissistic personality disorder — a set of traits defined by Austrian psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut as “including an exaggerated sense of superiority, a lack of self-awareness about the impact of their behaviour and having a disdain for others, who they devalue to validate their own grandiosity”. These people lack empathy, have a distorted sense of reality and are incapable of seeing anything from anyone else’s perspective. Narcissists like Zuma, Gumede argues, can’t accept responsibility and don’t care if they take down entire countries with them. The events at Nkandla, sadly for Zuma, only reinforced that perspective.
One consequence of such conspiracies and ructions, and the preoccupation with pure politics that they cause, is that a gap has opened up between the effective and the ceremonial parts of the Presidency. Mbeki and his crew used to form a bridge between policy and politics. Under Zuma, the practical and the symbolic aspects of the office have become increasingly divorced. The Presidency is in danger of becoming a symbolic institution, dedicated to projecting an image of a beloved national leader and obsessed with how the world looks rather than with how it is. If this continues, its practical work will increasingly fall away. The planning commission will plan and the monitoring unit will monitor. But ministers and premiers will do their own thing, oblivious to one another and unable to work towards a wider national good. – Anthony Butler in Business DayBACK TO TOP