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.
Hamlet’s idea is to catch out his uncle Claudius, who has usurped the throne by killing Hamlet’s father. So the meta-theatrical prince devises a plan to have the murder acted out in front of the murderer: “guilty creatures sitting at a play”, he says, cannot tolerate it when their sins are portrayed to them by actors, and so they “proclaim their malefactions” — they are forced to confess. As expected, Claudius betrays himself through his outraged response to Hamlet’s play. He falls into the trap of mimesis, confusing the work of art for the real world, precisely because it aggravates his guilty conscience. Zuma and his allies, through their over-reaction to Murray’s art, are in fact acknowledging that there is some merit in its critique. Claudius calls off Hamlet’s play; Zuma wanted The Spear removed from the gallery; two “free radicals” pre-empted any court decision by defacing the painting. But although Zuma and his supporters have pretended to be offended by the artist, or may even have convinced themselves they are truly offended, like King Claudius they will soon privately admit: “O, my offence is rank — it smells to heaven!” – Chris Thurman in Business DayBACK TO TOP