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.
[Mbeki’s] broadsides against white racism and his penchant for incarcerating black men are, I think, symptoms of the same dispiritedness. They are the thoughts and actions of an odd and unheralded figure — the black Afro-pessimist.
When one looks at institutions such as our police force and our health system, when one witnesses their degree of paralysis, one wonders whether one of the maladies from which they are suffering is not the president’s disenchantment and his pessimism. Come 2009, I hope we are blessed with a president who still believes in the art of the possible. For I suspect that the one we have now no longer does.