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Maybe they aren’t Putin us on. Maybe they actually believe what ...

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Maybe they aren’t Putin us on. Maybe they actually believe what they say

In a world where lies become truth, can a pampered politician be blamed for sinking into a sea of self-delusion?

Columnist

The Leader had arrived, and The Leader needed a bottle of water.

His entourage said it with no irony whatsoever. I think they might even have addressed him directly the same way: I was disoriented at the time, fighting the sense that I’d slipped into a fever dream in which I was hovering in the wings of a very on-the-nose political satire, but I’m pretty sure I remember someone gesturing obsequiously towards a door and saying: “This way, Leader.”

The object of this cultish genuflection on that particular day was Mmusi Maimane, arriving at a DA event in Cape Town in 2018. Less than two years later he was no longer The Leader, but on that day I watched people work as hard as bees around a queen to wrap an ordinary person in pure, glittering unreality and projection; and I was struck by how hard it must be to hold onto who you are when, dozens of times a day, people avert their awe-filled eyes from your face and call you “Leader” or “Your Holiness” or “Your Excellency”...

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