Mpumelelo Mkhabela

In the mind of Jacob Zuma

2017-06-30 17:40
President Jacob Zuma greets secretary general Gwede Mantashe while deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa chats to Winnie Mandela. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

President Jacob Zuma greets secretary general Gwede Mantashe while deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa chats to Winnie Mandela. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

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President Jacob Zuma seems to be suffering from what psychologists call "cognitive dissonance". 

It's a condition that manifests itself when a person appears (in speak) to believe in something but their actions (deeds) show that they are moving in the opposite direction.

In so behaving, the person betrays the workings of their dissonance (disjuncture) in cognitive (thinking) faculties. It can be very a serious problem if the person who suffers from it is unaware. In such a scenario, it would mean the problem is not faked; it's genuine. 

The condition, however, can be faked. A person can pretend to be ignorant of the lack of synchronisation between his spoken words and actions when in fact it’s a well calculated behavioural strategy. 

In ideological terms, cognitive dissonance becomes apparent when a person speaks the language of the left but they are extreme right-wing in their behaviour. Or if they speak right-wing language but act left. 

In terms of governance, which is where Zuma's politico-psychological condition is relevant, he speaks good governance but does everything that shows he doesn't believe in it.

If you didn't know anything about Zuma's scandals, the latest being how he facilitated the capture of the state by the Guptas, you would be convinced of the words coming out of his mouth at the opening of the ANC Policy Conference on Friday. 

Yet, words from him are just that: plain words unrelated to how he actually acts. It’s difficult to say whether his is a genuine problem or if he fakes it. Whatever is the real source behind what appears to be cognitive dissonance on his part, it does require the attention of delegates. 

Zuma spoke about the need for the ANC to deal with corruption. As if he is not inspiring others to be corrupt. 

He referred to the importance of integrity and ethics. As if he has capacity to restore integrity and ethics in the party and in government. 

He expressed concern about patronage that has become a big problem since ANC leaders had access to state power and resources. As if his friends and family aren't beneficiaries of a patronage network over which he presides.

He urged delegates to do introspection on why the ANC is suffering from electoral decline. As if he has ever done introspection about his own contribution to the crisis of confidence facing the ANC and the government.

He said the delegates must help to fix the ANC. He wouldn't say he is actually the problem that needs fixing. 

He said the ANC must remain an internationalist movement that is anti-imperialist. But, under his leadership, post-1994 imperialists have emerged in the form of the Guptas. The only difference with ancient imperialists is that the Guptas are not backed by a foreign empire. But they seem to be working hard to build one. 

He spoke against politics of grandstanding in Parliament. But everybody who follows parliamentary debates knows that his mocking and lying during the Nkandla debacle was the source of the spectacle in Parliament.

He spoke about state capture as if he heard about it from some distant place. But he's the chief architect of Gupta state capture.
He poured scorn at opposition parties resorting to the courts when the ANC defeats them in Parliament using its majority. But South Africans know how he wages most of his own survival battles through the courts. 

If I were an ANC delegate, I would table the president’s dissonance on the agenda for discussion at the policy conference.

- Mpumelelo Mkhabela is a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) at the University of Pretoria.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. 



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