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.
Sexual harassment, we might then say, is the great male performative, the act through which a man aims to convince his target, not only that he is the one with the power – which is true – but also that his power and his sexuality are one and the same thing. As Judith Butler has argued, the performative is always melancholic, since the performer knows the role they are enacting is no more than skin deep (‘melancholic’ also because of all the other buried and unconsciously grieved sexual lives one might have led).BACK TO TOP