Supra, Hlaudi cut from the same cloth of narcissism

Supra Mahumapelo.
Supra Mahumapelo.
Image: Phill Magakoe

What do Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Supra Mahumapelo have in common? Simple, they are illeists - people with the tendency of speaking about themselves in the third person.

The former SABC chief operating officer once said: "People are talking about this wonderful person called Hlaudi - even around the world they talk about Hlaudi . everywhere I go, people support Hlaudi."

During a recent interview with City Press, North West premier Mahumapelo rejected the call by residents and his political opponents to step down.

"But why are people resonating well with Mahumapelo when he goes to the villages? Why is it a small group of ANC members that say they do not want him," he asked, speaking about himself in the third person.

Recently, there has been intense debate in the field of psychology as to whether illeism is a sign of narcissism. Challenging the perceived truism about illeism and narcissism, Ethan Kross - a psychologist at the University of Michigan in the US - conducted a study which revealed that people who don't refer to themselves in the first person during self-talk have an easier time dealing with stressful situations.

Basically, the study revealed that treating ourselves as though we are other people could change how we think, feel and behave - including not necessarily being narcissistic.

In his paper, Illeism and Narcissism, Michigan-based psychologist Dr George Simon does concur that it is unusual for an average person to use illeism.

"Most often when a person does so it's because they are either defensive or protecting a particular image."

Motsoeneng's outlandish utterances and behaviour go a long way in confirming Simon's assertions. Following in his footsteps is, of course, none other than "Black Jesus" Mahumapelo.

The City Press interview reveals that, for Mahumapelo, it is indeed about image.

The image he wants to project is that of a capable leader under whose stewardship the North West has been a paragon of service delivery and economic development.

Therefore, the call for his removal is driven by those who want to take over the province's leadership after the 2019 general election, and they are afraid that under his continued stewardship the ANC would do so well that there would not be any reason to replace his government.

This, of course, is contrary to the reality on the ground that led to the violent protests and the call for his removal. Mahumapelo's recent highfalutin speech announcing his intended resignation and subsequent withdrawal thereof are symptomatic of "the air of haughtiness and grandeur" often displayed by narcissistic illeists described by Simon.

So is the blaming of his predecessors for the mess that the North West finds itself in now.

Mahumapelo's assertion that he is loved by most of the people of the North West and that only a small group of the disgruntled want him removed is also typical of his narcissistic tendencies.

Research conducted by psychologists based at the Washington University in St Louis reveals that his behaviour is in fact consistent with the self-verification theory, according to which "narcissists believe that they are exceptional people and may behave in arrogant ways because they are attempting to bridge the gap between their self-perception and their meta-perceptions".

The research shows that for the likes of Mahumapelo, their critics are either so stupid as not to realise what great leaders they have or they are just plain jealous of their brilliance.

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