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.
There are many kinds of lying which the law already catches: lying to defraud people of money or property; lying about someone’s character; lying on oath. In Germany and a number of other states Holocaust denial is a statutory lie and a crime. But, such offences aside, human rights law has found itself unable to draw a line between freedom to speak your mind and freedom to fabricate, falsify or mislead. The reason is not hard to see: a court called on to adjudicate on, for instance, some of the tall stories propagated in the course of the EU referendum campaign would have had to assume the role of a ministry of truth.BACK TO TOP