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.
From a realistic perspective, the role of elites and their policies in the process of regime transformation are not so simple. Once it is recognized that all “real-existing democracies” (REDs) depend crucially on the role of representatives who act as intermediaries between the citizens and their rulers – some of whom, either directly in presidential regimes or indirectly in parliamentary ones, become the rulers – then, the difference between autocracy and democracy is bound to be less dramatic. Instead of rule by a few vs. rule by all, we have “rule by some politicians” or “polito-cracy” as the outcome. These newly empowered representatives inevitably form an elite institutionally separate from the electorate that has chosen them competitively or the electorate that has chosen them for their reputationBACK TO TOP