Former president Jacob Zuma appears in the Durban High Court on June 8 2018. He is charged with 16 counts, including fraud‚ corruption and racketeering.
Image: Jackie Clausen / Pool

Some people think that former president Jacob Zuma is a liar.

He lied, they will claim, from his very first moments in office, when he vowed to uphold the constitution and defend South Africa’s laws.

Even at the end, they will insist, he was lying; telling the country he still didn’t know what he’d done wrong; playing the role of a bemused grandfather unfairly ganged up on by an ungrateful family.

I can see why they’d believe he was lying all along. These days, however, I’m not sure they’re right.

It comes down to our definition of a lie, which is, we all agree, to make an intentionally false statement. The liar knows the truth but chooses to present a distorted or entirely fabricated version of it.

But what happens if the “liar” is living in a reality where his lies are accepted truths? Is he a liar just because our version of reality differs from his? Is the problem with him, or is it with us?

Read Eaton's full column on Times Select.