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.
Perhaps Ramaphosas gamble is that a strengthened and autonomous criminal justice system will provide the coercion to keep political allies honest. The problem with this, though, is that it implies an indiscriminate policing of corruption, one that does not avoid figures who are necessary to the stabilisation of the dominant coalition. Prosecution of such figures may be satisfying to all who oppose corruption – but it poses the distinct threat of destabilising a potentially stabilising coalition, and providing the pretext for anti-Ramaphosa mobilisation. It is not at all clear that this circle can be squared. Hence the far greater likelihood that the dominant coalition remains unstable and subject to frequent challenge, paralysis and fracturing, accompanied by violence and attempts to subvert the criminal justice system. It is not impossible that such a dynamic produces a split in the ANC.BACK TO TOP