HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsFull-blown political psychopathy?

Full-blown political psychopathy?


Scene: Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference last week. Enter: Zanu PF functionary Temba Mliswa, he grabs a photojournalist’s video camera, plucks out the film and disappears with both right in front of the police who do absolutely nothing. A case of open criminality if there was.
Report by Conway Tutani

The scene would have been comical were it not tragic. OK, still there was a comic element. What he did makes for political theatre, but for what good purpose when the delegates should have been seized with putting the final touches to the new constitution led by the Parliamentary Constitutional Select Committee (Copac) envisaged to rescue the long-suffering nation from the political wilderness of the past 12 years?

There is no doubt that the country needs renewal, starting with political culture. That’s the raison d’etre for the inclusive government after the shocking madness of the 2008 presidential runoff election campaign which left over 200 dead – all because Zanu PF had lost in the first round in March.

Rarely do things come together to produce a perfect solution to everybody’s satisfaction, but throwing obstacles at each and every turn kills a nation’s spirit.

Mliswa’s purpose: To seize and destroy footage on which he was caught “coaching” long-abused Zanu PF “delegates” to act in an obstructive manner in order for the party’s views to prevail. In other words, he wanted to manipulate the “delegates” probably against their better sense and judgment. Mliswa, far from a genius himself, wanted to think on their behalf, cajoling and intimidating them by proclaiming that he was much more knowledgeable than them because he had been educated in England.

This is the self-same Mliswa who has been hollering against the white man ad nauseam, but when it suits him, he uses that very white man as a point of reference, a paragon of excellence.

This reminds one of the well-chronicled phenomenon of political psychopathy. Yes, research has shown that there is some underlying psychopathy in the conduct of politicians. This allows them to do what they want, whenever they want. Psychopathy is a personality disorder manifested especially in criminals – such as serial killers — who use a mixture of charm, manipulation, intimidation and violence to control others in order to satisfy their own selfish ends. They have a grandiose sense of self-worth and are pathological liars. They lack remorse and have no sense of guilt and don’t accept responsibility for their actions.

They don’t have realistic life goals, so will, without compunction, rob and murder to get what they want. Psychopathic violent criminals are able to assault, rape and murder without concern for legal, moral or social consequence. This allows them to do what they want whenever they want.

Ironically, the same characteristics exist in men and women drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society, including political officeholders. Yes, psychopathy, though generally associated with criminals, manifests heavily in the political world.

Party affiliation isn’t important here – that’s not what this piece is about per se, but the conduct of politicians, especially those long in office who develop a sense of entitlement and will do anything to stay in power. While not exhibiting physical violence, many political leaders display varying degrees of anger, feigned outrage and other behaviours. They also lack what most consider a “shame” mechanism. Instead of arresting thieves and those breaking the law, they arrest the truth, as it were.

Furthermore, that a psychopath can reach the heights of power is nothing new. No one would dispute that Hitler and Stalin were psychopaths at the extreme end of the spectrum: completely unconstrained by empathy or guilt and willing to say or do anything to accomplish their goals.

Mix genius and psychopathy, and you have a mighty disaster.

Over a century ago, famed American philosopher and psychologist William James said: “When superior intellect and a psychopathic temperament coalesce . . . in the same individual, we have the best possible conditions for the kind of effective genius that gets into the biographical dictionaries.” Let’s mix intelligence with integrity, not evil and genius.

So the ruckus over the draft constitution can be seen in the context of political psychopathy.

Next year, as we go for voting — the most important civic duty of all — we need a constitution by the people, of the people and for the people. This is what Copac was set up to achieve — not these manipulative, chorused recriminations rumbling on.
If the powers-that-be don’t curb these tendencies, there is real danger of them descending into full-blown political psychopathy.

  • ctutani@newsday.co.zw

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