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.
As early as 1981, one of Thatcher’s advisers complained that she bullied her weaker colleagues: “You criticise colleagues in front of each other and in front of their officials. . . . You give little praise or credit.” “If this is the best you can do,” she told Geoffrey Howe, a long-abused Cabinet minister, “then I’d better send you to hospital and deliver the statement myself.” On one occasion, when she became particularly “strident,” the Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney had to remind her, “I am not a member of your government, I am the head of a sovereign nation!” But she could just as easily rebuke entire nations, genders, or both at once. “You men, you’re all so weak,” she spat at some Dutch representatives after an episode of failed European negotiation.BACK TO TOP