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.
But in townships and shack settlements, there are very real threats to freedom of speech — the pressure to conform comes not from the fear of ridicule but from the use of force by local power-holders. One feature of democracy here about which we rarely talk is the extent to which our residential areas are dominated by particular parties. The problem is not as great as it was in 1994, when parties won more than 90% of the vote in many areas, but it has not disappeared. For several reasons, this is far more of a problem in areas where the poor live: often political bosses hold sway and they do not take kindly to competition. They also often have links to local police. And so challenging power-holders in the areas where most citizens live is likely to bring far worse consequences than ridicule — it may mean a threat of violence, in some cases from the police. In these areas, criticising the government is indeed brave and independent. – Steven Friedman in Business DayBACK TO TOP