Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki (Xhosa pronunciation: [tʰaɓɔ
mbɛːkʼi]; born 18 June 1942) is a South African politician who
served as the second
President of South Africa
President of South Africa from 14 June 1999 to
24 September 2008. On 20 September 2008, with about nine months
left in his second term, Mbeki announced his resignation after being
recalled by the
National Executive Committee of the ANC, following
a conclusion by judge C. R. Nicholson of improper interference in the
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), including the prosecution of
Jacob Zuma for corruption. On 12 January 2009, the Supreme Court of
Appeal unanimously overturned judge Nicholson's judgment but
the resignation stood.
During his tenure in office, the South African economy grew at an
average rate of 4.5% per year, creating employment in the middle
sectors of the economy. The Black middle-class was significantly
expanded with the implementation of
Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).
This growth exacerbated the demand for trained professionals strained
by emigration due to violent crime, but failed to address unemployment
amongst the unskilled bulk of the population. He attracted the bulk of
Foreign Direct Investment
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and made
South Africa the
focal point of African growth. He was the architect of
NEPAD whose aim
is to develop an integrated socio-economic development framework for
Africa. He also oversaw the successful building of economic
BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations with the
eventual formation of the India-Brazil-
South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue
Forum to "further political consultation and co-ordination as well as
strengthening sectoral co-operation, and economic relations".
Mbeki mediated in issues on the African continent including: Burundi,
Democratic Republic of Congo
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ivory Coast, and some
important peace agreements. Mbeki oversaw the transition from the
Organisation of African Unity
Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to the
African Union (AU). His
"quiet diplomacy" in Zimbabwe, however, is blamed for protracting the
survival of Robert Mugabe's regime at the cost of thousands of lives
and intense economic pressure on Zimbabwe's neighbours. He became a
vocal leader of the
Non-Aligned Movement in the United Nations, and,
while leveraging South Africa's seat on the Security Council, he
agitated for reform of that body.
Mbeki has received worldwide criticism for his stance on AIDS. He
questions the link between HIV and AIDS, and believes that the
correlation between poverty and the AIDS rate in Africa was a
challenge to the viral theory of AIDS. His fate was not helped by
Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and the overhaul of the
pharmaceutical industry in South Africa. His ban of antiretroviral
drugs in public hospitals is estimated to be responsible for the
premature deaths of between 330,000 and 365,000 people.
Thabo Mbeki has also been criticised for responding to negative
comments made about his government by accusing critics of racism.
1 Early life
2 Marriage and family
3 Exile and return
3.1 Going into exile
Lusaka and Botswana
Swaziland and Nigeria
4 Role in African politics
4.1 Role in procuring the 2010 World Cup
5 Economic policies
6 Political style
7 Mbeki and the Internet
8 Global apartheid
9.1.1 2002 Presidential elections
9.1.2 2005 Parliamentary Elections
9.1.3 Dialogue between
Zanu-PF and MDC
9.1.4 Business response
9.1.5 Position on Mugabe
9.1.6 SADC facilitator of
Zimbabwe power-sharing agreement
9.2.1 Mbeki and the Cabinet
AIDS denialist connections
9.3 Electricity crisis
10 Debate with
11 Mbeki, Zuma, and succession
13 2009 general election
14.1 Honorary degrees
14.2 Orders and decorations
15 Personal life
16 Books and biographies
19 External links
Born and raised in Mbewuleni, Cape Province, Union of South Africa,
Mbeki is one of four children of Epainette and Govan Mbeki. The
Moeletsi Mbeki is one of his brothers. His father was a
stalwart of the
African National Congress
African National Congress (ANC) and the South African
Communist Party. He is a native Xhosa speaker. His parents were both
teachers and activists in a rural area of strength to the African
National Congress, and Mbeki describes himself as "born into the
struggle"; a portrait of
Karl Marx sat on the family mantelpiece, and
a portrait of
Mohandas Gandhi was on the wall.
Mbeki attended primary school in Idutywa and Butterworth and acquired
a secondary education at Lovedale, Alice. In 1959, he was expelled
from school as a result of student strikes and forced to continue his
studies at home. In the same year, he sat for matriculation
examinations at St. John's High School, Umtata. In the ensuing years,
he completed A-level examinations (the same tests undertaken in
schools in England) in Johannesburg; and undertook an economics degree
as an external student with the University of London. During this
time, the ANC was outlawed and Mbeki was involved in underground
activities in the Pretoria-
Witwatersrand area. He was also involved in
mobilising students in support of the ANC call for a stay at home to
be held in protest of
South Africa becoming a republic.
In December 1961, Mbeki was elected secretary of the African Students'
Association. In the following year, he left
South Africa on
instructions of the ANC.
Govan Mbeki had come to the rural Eastern Cape as a political activist
after earning two university degrees; he urged his family to make the
ANC their family, and of his children,
Thabo Mbeki is the one who most
clearly followed that instruction, joining the party at the age of
fourteen and devoting his life to it thereafter.
Marriage and family
Mbeki, aged 16, had a child with Olive Mpahlwa named Monwabise
Kwanda. Monwabise Kwanda disappeared in 1981 with Thabo's youngest
On 23 November 1974, Mbeki married his wife Zanele (née Dlamini) at
Farnham Castle in the United Kingdom.
Exile and return
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Going into exile
After the banning of the ANC, the organisation decided it would be
better for Mbeki to go into exile. In 1962, Mbeki and a group of
South Africa disguised as a football team. They
travelled in a minibus to
Botswana and flew from there to Tanzania,
where Mbeki accompanied Kenneth Kaunda, who later became Zambia's
post-independence president, to London. Mbeki stayed with Oliver
Tambo, who would later be elected the longest serving president of the
ANC in the absence of the jailed Rivonia trialists. Mbeki worked
part-time with Tambo and
Yusuf Dadoo while studying economics at
Sussex University in the coastal town of Brighton. At one stage, Mbeki
shared a flat with two other students, Mike Yates and Derek Gunby.
Together the trio would become firm friends and frequent a local bar
when they were not discussing politics and listening to music. It was
here that Mbeki developed a deep love for
an appreciation of Yeats. He also came to love the blues. In February
1963, three months after his arrival at the University, Mbeki was
elected onto the Student Union Committee. By April, he was one of 28
signatories petitioning in support of "Spies for Peace", a document
that revealed secret information about Britain's plans for civil
defence and government in the event of a nuclear attack.
On 11 July 1963, the High Command of the ANC was caught at Lilliesleaf
Farm in Rivonia, one of them being Govan Mbeki. To hold the prisoners,
the General Laws Amendment Act, Number 37 of 1963, was rushed through
Parliament and applied retrospectively to 27 June 1962, mainly but not
exclusively so that the people arrested at Rivonia could be detained
and held in solitary confinement. In July of the same year, Mbeki
began mobilising international support against apartheid. Horrified at
the Act, Mbeki led a successful motion in the Student Union to condemn
the move and join the boycott of South African goods. He strongly
condemned the South African government's new restrictions on political
activity and likened it to in the politics of Nazi Germany. In April
1964, Mbeki appeared before a delegation of the United Nations Special
Apartheid to plead for the life of his father, who
by then had been charged with planning an armed uprising against the
state. The death penalty seemed a certainty for all the Rivonia
Treason Trialists. This was the first time Mbeki had spoken about his
father from the perspective of a son, but the biological category was
converted into a political context.
On 6 October, the Rivonia Trialists were formally charged. On 13 June
1964, Mbeki organised a march from
Brighton to London, after the
Rivonia Trialists were found guilty of high treason. They were
expected to be sentenced to death. The students held a night march to
10 Downing Street and handed a petition, signed by 664 staff and
students at Sussex University, to the Prime Minister. Thereafter, they
held a demonstration outside
South Africa House in Trafalgar Square.
The next day,
London television showed Mbeki leading the march. This
kind of lobbying helped the Trialists, who were spared the hangman's
noose. For the next three decades, Mbeki would take up the job of
rallying support against apartheid. Mbeki completed his bachelor's
degree in economics at
Sussex University in May 1965. With his own
parents unable to attend his graduation ceremony,
Adelaide Tambo and
Michael Harmel took their place at the event. While in London, Mbeki
spent all of his summers with the Tambo family.
After completing his first degree, Mbeki planned to join uMkhonto we
Sizwe (MK) and he sought permission to do so, but this plan was vetoed
by Tambo, who advised him to do a Master's degree. In October 1965,
Mbeki returned to Sussex for one year to do his Masters in Economics
and Development. Mbeki at this time shared a flat with Peter Lawrence
and Ingram, situated at 3 Sillwood Street. While in England, Mbeki
supported the Labour Party, then-led by Harold Wilson. Mbeki was
intensely critical of the New Left revision of Marxism that swept
Europe in the latter half of the 1960s and remained ardently loyal to
the Soviet Union, which at the time heavily sponsored the ANC's
underground movement, providing them with financial and educational
support, as well as arms and military training. On 18 May 1966, Mbeki
organised a 24-hour vigil at the Clock Tower in Brighton's central
square against Ian Smith's Unilateral Declaration of Independence in
Rhodesia. In October 1966 Mbeki moved to
London to work for the ANC
full-time. During this period he met his wife to be, Zanele Dlamini, a
social worker from Alexandra Township in Johannesburg, who was also
studying in London. Zanele had just moved to
London at this time.
In 1966, Mbeki appealed to
Oliver Tambo to allow any South African
student who supported the ANC to be admitted into the movement's Youth
and Students Section (YSS), irrespective of race. Tambo agreed and the
YSS became the first non-racial arm of the ANC. In the same year, the
ANC upheld its decision to exclude non-Africans from its National
Executive meeting in its Morogoro conference. Mbeki busied himself
with issues such as the protest against increases in student fees for
foreign students, nuclear disarmament, and solidarity struggles with
the peoples of Zimbabwe, Spain, Cyprus, Iraq, Iran and Vietnam, and
the Portuguese-controlled territories. The YSS took an active role in
the anti-Vietnam War movement, a campaign spearheaded by Mbeki. This
led to Mbeki's friend, Essop Pahad, being elected onto the organising
committee of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC). The YSS became a
major player in the anti-war marches. On 17 March 1968, Mbeki, took
part in a massive anti-Vietnam demonstration outside the American
embassy in London's Grosvenor Square and had his upper right molar
tooth cracked when he was attacked by a policeman. Although he was
arraigned and arrested for his part in the demonstration, he was not
one of the 246 that were eventually charged. Mbeki completed his
Master's degree at
Sussex University in May 1968.
Mbeki was finally given permission to undergo a year of military
training at the Lenin International School in Moscow. He arrived
Moscow in February 1969 and became a student at the Lenin
Institute, which was established exclusively for communists, the
exception being non-communist members of liberation movements who
could get ideological training at the Institute. Mbeki excelled at the
Institute and regularly addressed the Institutes' weekly assembly.
While in Moscow, he continued writing articles, documents and speeches
for the ANC and its organs. In June 1969, Mbeki was chosen to be
secretary of a high-level SACP delegation to the International
Conference of Communist and Workers Parties in Moscow. In June 1970,
Mbeki was secretly shuttled from his military camp north-west of
Moscow to the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) guest house
in Volynskoye, where the South African Communist Party's (SACP's)
Central Committee was holding its meeting. This was indeed significant
because, up to this point, the SACP leadership had been largely
non-African. Mbeki and several Africans were now included in the
committee, including Chris Hani. Both Hani and Mbeki celebrated their
28th birthdays at this meeting, making them the youngest members to
ever serve on the committee. While in Moscow, Mbeki was trained in
advanced guerrilla warfare at Skhodnya, and although he was more
comfortable with a book rather than a gun, the training was considered
a necessary requirement if he was to be accepted as a leader. His
military training was cut short as he was sent back to
prepare for a new post in Lusaka. Throughout Mbeki's training, he kept
in constant contact with Zanele.
Lusaka and Botswana
Together with Oliver Tambo, Mbeki left
Lusaka in April 1971
to take up the position of assistant secretary of the ANC's
Revolutionary Council (RC). This was the first time in nine years that
Mbeki was setting foot on African soil. The aim of the RC at this time
was to bridge an ever-widening gap between the ANC in exile and the
people back home. In Lusaka, Mbeki was housed in a secret location in
Makeni, south-west of the city. Later, Mbeki moved over to work in the
ANC's propaganda section. But he continued to attend RC meetings. Four
months after his arrival in Lusaka, Mbeki travelled to Beichlingen to
deliver a speech on behalf of the ANC's Executive Committee at the YSS
summer school. This was a turning point in Mbeki's life as it was the
first time he spoke on behalf of the ANC as opposed to the ANC Youth
In December 1972, Mbeki joined Tambo at
Heathrow Airport to meet
Mangosuthu Buthelezi to discuss mass resistance to apartheid. Mbeki is
credited with facilitating the establishment of Inkatha – it was his
responsibility to nurture the relationship between Buthelezi and the
ANC. Mbeki was deployed to
Botswana in 1973 to facilitate the
development of an internal underground.
Mbeki's life took a significant turn on 23 November 1974 when he
married Zanele Dlamini. The wedding ceremony took place at Farnham
Castle, the residence of Zanele's sister Edith and her husband,
Adelaide Tambo and Mendi Msimang stood in
loco-parentis for Mbeki while
Essop Pahad was Mbeki's best man. The
wedding, according to ANC rules, had to be approved by the
organisation – a rule that applied to all permanently deployed
members of the ANC.
Swaziland and Nigeria
In January 1975, just a few months after his marriage to Zanele, Mbeki
was sent to
Swaziland to assess the possibility of setting up an ANC
frontline base in the country. Ostensibly attending a UN conference,
Mbeki was accompanied by Max Sisulu. The duo met with Sisulu's sister,
Lindiwe Sisulu, who was studying at the University at Swaziland.
Lindiwe set up a meeting for the two at the home of S'bu Ndebele, then
a librarian at the university. Mbeki and Sisulu held meetings in
Swaziland for a week with South Africans studying there to assess the
situation. They returned to
Lusaka after a week, when their visas had
expired. Mbeki reported back to the ANC that the possibility of
establishing an ANC base in
Swaziland was promising, especially
because of its location, as it was close to
Johannesburg and Durban.
As a result, Mbeki was sent back to
Swaziland to recruit soldiers for
the organisation's military wing. In Swaziland, Mbeki recruited
hundreds of people into the ANC. He also liaised with Buthelezi and
the latter's newly formed Inkatha movement, and set up structures
within South Africa. Mbeki's aim was to establish contact with as many
Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) members as he could and to draw
them into the ANC. Ironically, while Mbeki was converting BC adherents
into ANC members, he would himself absorb many aspects of BC ideology.
In March 1976, Mbeki, Albert Dhlomo and
Jacob Zuma were arrested in
Swaziland, but the trio managed to escape deportation to South Africa.
Instead, a month after their arrest, they were escorted across the
border to Mozambique. From there, Mbeki went back to
Lusaka for a few
months before being posted to
Nigeria in January 1977. Before leaving
Lusaka, Mbeki was appointed as deputy to
Duma Nokwe in the Department
of Information and Propaganda (DIP). Mbeki's mission in
Nigeria was to
establish diplomatic relations with Olusegun Obasanjo's regime, – a
mission that proved to be quite successful as Mbeki was to build a
lasting relationship with the Nigerian authorities, eclipsing the Pan
Africanist Congress (PAC) in Nigeria. Zanele, who was running the
Africa offices of the International University Education Fund in
Lusaka, spent much of 1977 with her husband in Nigeria.
In 1978, Mbeki became political secretary in the office of Oliver
Tambo. He became a close confidant of Tambo, advising him on all
matters and writing many of his speeches. One of his duties as
secretary was to choose a theme each year in accordance with the ANC's
current activities – 1979, for example, was known as "The Year of
the Spear", while 1980 was "The Year of the Charter." From 1979, with
Mbeki as his right-hand man, Tambo began building up the guerrilla
movement into an internationally recognised guardian of South African
Mbeki was sent to Salisbury (renamed to
Harare in 1980) immediately
Robert Mugabe took office as Prime Minister of
Zimbabwe in 1980.
On 11 August 1980, Tambo and Mbeki met with Mugabe and his advisor,
Emmerson Mnangagwa, in Salisbury. The meeting resulted in MK being
allowed to move ammunition and cadres through Zimbabwe. Mugabe
guaranteed that his government would assist ANC cooperatives in
Zimbabwe. Mbeki, preferring to return to Lusaka, decided to hand over
the reins in
Zimbabwe to Chris Hani, who was to continue the
relationship with Mugabe. In July 1981 Joe Gqabi, the ANC
representative in Zimbabwe, was assassinated at his home. The
relationship between the ANC and the Zimbabwean government came under
strain. During the 1980s, Mbeki became a leading figure in the SACP,
rising to the party's central committee by the mid-1980s. The SACP was
a vital part of the ANC alliance.
In February 1982, Mbeki's brother Jama disappeared. He was later
presumed dead. In 1985,
PW Botha declared a State of Emergency and
gave the army and police special powers. In 1986, the South African
Army sent a captain in the
South African Defence Force
South African Defence Force (SADF) to kill
Mbeki. The plan was to put a bomb in his house in Lusaka, but the
assassin was arrested by the Zambian police before he could go through
with the plan.
In 1985, Mbeki became the ANC's director of the Department of
Information and Publicity and coordinated diplomatic campaigns to
involve more white South Africans in anti-apartheid activities. In
1989, he rose in the ranks to head the ANC's Department of
International Affairs and was involved in the ANC's negotiations with
the South African government.
Mbeki played a major role in turning the international media against
apartheid. Raising the diplomatic profile of the ANC, Mbeki acted as a
point of contact for foreign governments and international
organisations and he was extremely successful in this position. Mbeki
also played the role of ambassador to the steady flow of delegates
from the elite sectors of white South Africa. These included
academics, clerics, business people and representatives of liberal
white groups who travelled to
Lusaka to assess the ANC's views on a
democratic, free South Africa.
Mbeki was seen as pragmatic, eloquent, rational and urbane. He was
known for his diplomatic style and sophistication.
In the early 1980s, Mbeki,
Jacob Zuma and
Aziz Pahad were appointed by
Tambo to conduct private talks with representatives of the National
Party government. Twelve meetings between the parties took place
between November 1987 and May 1990, most of them held at Mells Park
House, a country house near Bath in Somerset, England. By September
1989, the team secretly met with Maritz Spaarwater and Mike Louw in a
hotel in Switzerland. Known as "Operation Flair",
PW Botha was kept
informed of all the meetings. At the same time, Mandela and Kobie
Coetzee, the Minister of Justice, were also holding secret talks.
In 1989, Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced by FW De Klerk, who
announced on 2 February 1990 that the ANC, SACP, PAC and other
liberation movements were to be unbanned. This was a dramatic step,
even for the National Party, but it was the pragmatic and moderate
attitude of Mandela and Mbeki that played a crucial role in paving the
way forward. Both of them reassured the National Party that the mass
Black constituency would accept the idea of negotiations. A new
constitutional order was in the offing. As a sign of goodwill, De
Klerk set free a few of the ANC's top leadership at the end of 1989,
among them Govan Mbeki.
Between 1990 and 1994, the ANC began preparing for the first
democratic elections. It was an adjustment period and Mbeki played a
crucial role in transforming the ANC into a legal political
organisation. In 1991, the ANC was able to hold its first legal
conference in the country after 30 years of being banned. The party
now had the task of finding a middle ground for discussion between all
the various factions: the returning exiles, the long-term prisoners
and those who had stayed behind to lead the struggle. Mbeki was chosen
as national chair while
Cyril Ramaphosa was elected secretary general
and the ANC's chief negotiator at the multiparty talks. Mbeki had up
to this point been handling much of the diplomatic talks with the
apartheid regime, and given his diplomatic experience and the level of
bargaining that was expected, it came as a surprise that Mbeki was
sidelined in favour of Ramaphosa.
Mbeki was now in a contest to become Mandela's deputy. His rivals were
Ramaphosa and Chris Hani, secretary general of the SACP. However,
Mbeki had a strong support base among the ANC Youth League and the
ANC's Women's League. When
Chris Hani was assassinated in 1993, Mbeki
and Ramaphosa were left to contest the position of Deputy President.
Part of a series on
1948 general election
Coloured vote constitutional crisis
1956 Treason Trial
Church Street bombing
Trojan Horse Incident
Khotso House bombing
Cape Town peace march
Assassination of Chris Hani
Saint James Church massacre
Shell House massacre
State Security Council
P. W. Botha
F. W. de Klerk
D. F. Malan
H. F. Verwoerd
B. J. Vorster
Apartheid in popular culture
Cape Qualified Franchise
Rhodes Must Fall
South African Police
Music in the movement against apartheid
After leaving the Eastern Cape,
Thabo Mbeki lived in Johannesburg,
working with Walter Sisulu. After the arrest and imprisonment of
Sisulu, Mandela and his father—and facing a similar fate—he left
South Africa as one of a number of young ANC militants (Umkhonto we
Sizwe cadres) sent abroad to continue their education and their
anti-apartheid activities. He ultimately spent 28 years in exile,
returning to his homeland only after the release of Nelson Mandela.
Mbeki spent the early years of his exile in the United Kingdom. In
1962, aged 19, he arrived at the brand-new University of Sussex,
earning first a BA degree in economics, and then remaining to complete
a Master's degree in African studies. While at Sussex he saw himself
as a representative of the ANC and helped motivate the university
population against apartheid. Still in the UK, he worked in the
London office on Penton Street. He received military training in
Soviet Union and lived at different times in Botswana, Swaziland
and Nigeria, but his primary base was in Lusaka, Zambia, the site of
the ANC headquarters.
In 1973, Mbeki was sent to Botswana, where he engaged the Botswana
government in discussions to open an ANC office there. He left
Botswana in 1974. In 1975, he became a member of the National
Executive Committee of the ANC. In December 1976, he was sent to
Nigeria as a representative of the ANC.
While in exile, his brother Jama Mbeki, a supporter of the rival Pan
Africanist Congress, was killed by agents of the
Lesotho government in
1982 while attempting to assist the
Lesotho Liberation Army. His son
Kwanda, the product of a liaison in Mbeki's teenage years, was killed
while trying to leave
South Africa to join his father. When Mbeki
finally was able to return home to
South Africa and was reunited with
his own father, the elder Mbeki told a reporter, "You must remember
Thabo Mbeki is no longer my son. He is my comrade!" A news
article pointed out that this was an expression of pride, explaining,
"For Govan Mbeki, a son was a mere biological appendage; to be called
a comrade, on the other hand, was the highest honour."
Mbeki devoted his life to the ANC and during his years in exile was
given increased responsibility. Following the 1976
Soweto riots – a
student uprising in the township outside
Johannesburg – he initiated
a regular radio broadcast from Lusaka, tying ANC followers inside the
country to their exiled leaders. Encouraging activists to keep up the
pressure on the apartheid regime was a key component in the ANC's
campaign to liberate their country. In the late 1970s, Mbeki made a
number of trips to the United States in search of support among US
corporations. Literate and funny, he made a wide circle of friends in
New York City. Mbeki was appointed head of the ANC's information
department in 1984 and then became head of the international
department in 1989, reporting directly to Oliver Tambo, then President
of the ANC. Tambo was Mbeki's long-time mentor.
Mbeki with U.S. President George W. Bush, July 2003
Mbeki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, 5 September 2006
In 1985, Mbeki was a member of a delegation that began meeting
secretly with representatives of the South African business community,
and in 1989, he led the ANC delegation that conducted secret talks
with the South African government. These talks led to the unbanning of
the ANC and the release of political prisoners. He also participated
in many of the other important negotiations between the ANC and the
government that eventually led to the democratisation of South
He became a Deputy
President of South Africa
President of South Africa in May 1994 on the
attainment of universal suffrage (Right To Vote), and sole Deputy
President in June 1996. He succeeded
Nelson Mandela as ANC president
in December 1997 and as
President of South Africa
President of South Africa in June 1999; he was
re-elected for a second term in April 2004.
Role in African politics
Mbeki has been a powerful figure in African politics, positioning
South Africa as a regional power broker and promoting the idea that
African political conflicts should be solved by Africans. He headed
the formation of both the New Partnership for Africa's Development
(NEPAD) and the
African Union (AU) and has played influential roles in
brokering peace deals in Rwanda, Burundi,
Ivory Coast and the
Democratic Republic of Congo. He has also tried to popularise the
concept of an African Renaissance. He sees African dependence on aid
and foreign intervention as a major barrier, and sees structures like
NEPAD and the AU as part of a process in which Africa solves its own
problems without relying on outside assistance.
Kabila in 2002, with Thabo Mbeki, George W. Bush, and Paul Kagame.
Role in procuring the 2010 World Cup
It was Mbeki's vision and his African renaissance attitude that had
undoubtedly brought the successful bid to host the 2010 FIFA World
Cup. Acknowledging Mbeki's contribution, Business Day newspaper in
Johannesburg said in its editorial opinion "The fact is that it was
the former president's vision of an African renaissance, with South
Africa leading the charge to prove to the rest of the world that the
continent was not destined to disappoint in perpetuity, that resulted
in us persisting in our bid to host the tournament." Similarly the
same theme was mentioned by the Citizen newspaper in Johannesburg
saying "Now we know he was correct in that assessment of South
Africa's ability to stage the greatest show on earth." Mbeki always
believed that Africans are capable of hosting the World Cup. President
Mbeki worked to bring the 2010 World Cup to the African continent for
the first time. He personally asked favours to some world leaders to
support his World Cup bid. Among these leaders is the then-president
of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Mbeki said "With your
distinguished football record, the International Football Federation
(FIFA) can hardly refuse if Brazil says the cup must go to South
CIA World Factbook
CIA World Factbook says: "South African economic policy is
fiscally conservative, but pragmatic, focusing on targeting inflation
and liberalising trade as means to increase job growth and household
Mbeki, as an ANC insider and while president, was a major force behind
the continued neoliberal structure of the South African economy. He
drew criticism from the left for his perceived abandonment of
state-interventionist social democratic economic policies, such as
nationalisation, land reform, and democratic capital controls,
prescribed by the Freedom Charter, the ANC's seminal document.
Mbeki giving a speech to
District Six land claimants in Cape Town
Mbeki has sometimes been characterised as remote and academic,
although in his second campaign for the Presidency in 2004, many
observers described him as finally relaxing into more traditional ways
of campaigning, sometimes dancing at events and even kissing
babies. Mbeki used his weekly column in the ANC
newsletter ANC Today, to produce discussions on a variety of
topics. He sometimes used his column to deliver pointed invectives
against political opponents, and at other times used it as a kind of
professor of political theory, educating ANC cadres on the
intellectual justifications for
African National Congress
African National Congress policy.
Although these columns were remarkable for their dense prose, they
often were used to influence news. Although Mbeki did not generally
make a point of befriending or courting reporters, his columns and
news events often yielded good results for his administration by
ensuring that his message is a primary driving force of news
coverage. Indeed, in initiating his columns, Mbeki stated his view
that the bulk of South African media sources did not speak for or to
the South African majority, and stated his intent to use
ANC Today to
speak directly to his constituents rather than through the media.
Mbeki and the Internet
Mbeki appears to have been at ease with the Internet and willing to
quote from it. For instance, in a column discussing Hurricane
Katrina, he cited, quoted at length a discussion of
Katrina's lessons on American inequality from the Native American
publication Indian Country Today, and then included excerpts from
a David Brooks column in the
New York Times
New York Times in a discussion of why the
events of Katrina illustrated the necessity for global development and
redistribution of wealth.
His penchant for quoting diverse and sometimes obscure sources, both
from the Internet and from a wide variety of books, made his column an
interesting parallel to political blogs although the ANC does not
describe it in these terms. His views on AIDS (see below) were
supported by Internet searching which led him to so-called "AIDS
denialist" websites; in this case, Mbeki's use of the Internet was
roundly criticised and even ridiculed by opponents.
Mbeki has used his position on the world stage to call for an end to
global apartheid, a term he uses to describe the disparity between a
small minority of rich nations and a great number of impoverished
states in the world, arguing that a "global human society based on
poverty for many and prosperity for a few, characterised by islands of
wealth, surrounded by a sea of poverty, is unsustainable".
South Africa's proximity, strong trade links, and similar struggle
South Africa in a unique position to influence
politics in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's hyperinflation since 2000 was a
matter of increasing concern to Britain (as the former colonial power)
and other donors to that country. High-ranking diplomatic visits to
South Africa repeatedly attempted to persuade Mbeki to take a harder
Robert Mugabe over violent state-sponsored attacks on
political opponents and opposition movements, expropriation of
white-owned farms by
ZANU-PF allied "war veterans", sanctioning
against the press, and infringements on the independence of the
Rather than publicly criticising Mugabe's government, Mbeki chose
"quiet diplomacy" over "megaphone diplomacy" – his term for the
West's increasingly forthright condemnation of Mugabe's rule. Mbeki is
even quoted claiming "there is no crisis" in Zimbabwe, despite
increased evidence of political violence and murders, hyperinflation,
and the influx of political refugees into South Africa.
To quote Mbeki:
The point really about all this from our perspective has been that the
critical role we should play is to assist the Zimbabweans to find each
other, really to agree among themselves about the political, economic,
social, other solutions that their country needs. We could have
stepped aside from that task and then shouted, and that would be the
end of our contribution ... They would shout back at us and that
would be the end of the story. I'm actually the only head of
government that I know anywhere in the world who has actually gone to
Zimbabwe and spoken publicly very critically of the things that they
2002 Presidential elections
Mugabe faced a critical presidential election in 2002. Concerns over
the conduct of the election in
Zimbabwe prompted debate within the
Commonwealth and led to a difficult decision to suspend
the organisation. Mbeki supported Mugabe during this period. It is
thought that Mbeki viewed Mugabe as "a victim of imperialist meddling
and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as a Western
The full meeting of the Commonwealth had failed in a consensus to
decide on the issue, and they tasked the previous, present (at the
time), and future leaders of Commonwealth (respectively President
Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria,
John Howard of Australia, and Mbeki of
South Africa) to come to a consensus between them over the issue. On
20 March 2002 (10 days after the elections, which Mugabe won) Howard
announced that they had agreed to suspend
Zimbabwe for a year.
A 50 person-strong South African Observer Mission found that the
outcome of the 2002
Zimbabwe presidential elections "should be
considered legitimate" despite condemnations over the conduct of the
election by the Commonwealth, Norwegian observers, Zimbabwean
opposition figures, and Western governments and media.
Mbeki also sent South African judges
Sisi Khampepe and Dikgang
Moseneke to observe and compile a report on the elections. The report
was kept secret until 2014 when the
Constitutional Court ordered that
Khampepe's report should be made public after a long court case
brought against the South African government by the Mail &
Guardian newspaper. The Khampepe Report contradicted the South African
Observer Mission and found that the election "cannot be considered to
be free and fair" and documented 107 murders mostly committed
against supporters of the opposition MDC by
Zanu-PF militias in the
weeks before the elections.
Mbeki's stance on the elections permanently soured relations between
South Africa and Zimbabwe’s opposition and negatively affected the
credibility of South African diplomacy.
2005 Parliamentary Elections
In the face of laws restricting public assembly and freedom of the
media, restricting campaigning by the MDC for the 2005 Zimbabwe
parliamentary elections, President Mbeki was quoted as saying: I have
no reason to think that anything will happen … that anybody in
Zimbabwe will act in a way that will militate against the elections
being free and fair. [...] As far as I know, things like an
independent electoral commission, access to the public media, the
absence of violence and intimidation … those matters have been
Minerals and Energy Minister
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka led the largest
foreign observer mission, the SADC Observer Mission, to oversee the
Zimbabwe elections. Contrary to other international missions and parts
of the SA Parliamentary Mission, the mission congratulated the people
Zimbabwe for holding a peaceful, credible and well-mannered
election which reflects the will of the people. The Democratic
Alliance delegation (part SA Parliamentary Observer Mission) clashed
with the minister and eventually submitted a separate report
contradicting her findings. The elections were widely denounced and
Zanu-PF of massive and often violent intimidation, using
food to buy votes, and large discrepancies in the tallying of
Zanu-PF and MDC
Mbeki attempted to restore dialogue between Zimbabwean President
Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in the
face of denials from both parties. A fact-finding mission in 2004 by
Congress of South African Trade Unions
Congress of South African Trade Unions to
Zimbabwe led to their widely
publicised deportation back to
South Africa which reopened the debate,
even within the ANC, as to whether Mbeki's policy of "quiet diplomacy"
On 5 February 2006 Mbeki said in an interview with SABC television
Zimbabwe had missed a chance to resolve its political crisis in
2004 when secret talks to agree on a new constitution ended in
failure. He claimed that he saw a copy of a new constitution signed by
all parties. The job of promoting dialogue between the ruling
party and the opposition was likely made more difficult by divisions
within the MDC, splits to which the president alluded when he stated
that the MDC were "sorting themselves out." In turn, the MDC
unanimously rejected this assertion. (MDC-Mutambara Faction's)
Welshman Ncube said "We never gave Mbeki a draft
constitution – unless it was ZANU PF which did that. Mbeki has to
tell the world what he was really talking about."
In May 2007 it was reported that Mbeki had been partisan and taken
Zanu-PF in his role as mediator. He had given
pre-conditions to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change before
the dialogue could resume while giving no conditions to the ZANU-PF
government. He required that the MDC accept and recognise Robert
Mugabe was the president of Zimbabwe, and the MDC accept the 2002
presidential election results despite widespread belief of being
unfree, unfair, and fraudulent.
On 10 January 2006, businessman Warren Clewlow, on the board of four
of the top-10 listed companies in SA, including Old Mutual, Sasol,
Nedbank and Barloworld, said that government should stop its
unsuccessful behind-the-scenes attempts to resolve the Zimbabwean
crisis and start vociferously condemning what was happening in that
country. Clewlow's sentiments reflected the South African private
sector's increasing impatience with Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy" and were
echoed by Business Unity
South Africa (BUSA), the umbrella body for
business organisations in South Africa.
As the company's chairman, he said in Barloworld's latest annual
report that SA's efforts to date were fruitless and that the only
means for a solution was for SA "to lead from the front. Our role and
responsibility is not just to promote discussion... Our aim must be to
achieve meaningful and sustainable change."
Position on Mugabe
Mbeki was frequently criticised for not exerting pressure on Mugabe to
relinquish power, although he chaired meetings in which the
Zimbabwean leader's potential departure from power was negotiated.
He rejected calls in May 2007 for tough action against
of a visit by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He said on 29
July 2007 that
Zimbabwe elections in March 2008 must be 'free and
fair'. An article critical of Mbeki's handling of Mugabe appeared
Forbes and claimed a peaceful transfer of power in
not be because of [Mbeki], but in spite of him." Ebrahim Fakir, a
researcher at the Johannesburg-based Centre for Policy Studies, and
Susan Booysen, political analyst at the University of the
Witwatersrand, said that Mbeki botched his legacy due to his cautious
approach to Mugabe. The media has been very critical: The Washington
Post published a commentary describing Mbeki as a bankrupt democrat
and accused him of complicity in "stealing" the Zimbabwean election,
The Economist called Mbeki's actions "unconscionable".
SADC facilitator of
Zimbabwe power-sharing agreement
At the end of the fourth day of negotiations, South African President
and mediator to Zimbabwe, Thabo Mbeki, announced in
Harare that Robert
Mugabe of ZANU-PF, professor
Arthur Mutambara of MDC-M and Morgan
Tsvangirai of MDC-T finally signed the power-sharing agreement –
"memorandum of understanding." Mbeki stated: "An agreement has
been reached on all items on the agenda ... all of them [Mugabe,
Tsvangirai, Mutambara] endorsed the document tonight, and signed it.
The formal signing will be done on Monday 10 am. The document
will be released then. The ceremony will be attended by the SADC and
other African regional and continental leaders. The leaders will spend
the next few days constituting the inclusive government to be
announced on Monday. The leaders will work very hard to mobilise
support for the people to recover. We hope the world will assist so
that this political agreement succeeds." In the signed historic power
deal, Mugabe, on 11 September 2008, agreed to surrender day-to-day
control of the government, and the deal was also expected to result in
a de facto amnesty for the military and
ZANU-PF party leaders.
Opposition sources said that "Tsvangirai will become prime minister at
the head of a council of ministers, the principal organ of government,
drawn from his party and the president's
ZANU-PF party; and Mugabe
will remain president and continue to chair a cabinet that will be a
largely consultative body, and the real power will lie with
Tsvangirai." South Africa's Business Day reported,
however, that Mugabe was refusing to sign a deal which would curtail
his presidential powers. Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the
MDC-T, announced that "this is an inclusive government" and that the
executive power would be shared by the president, the prime minister,
and the cabinet. According to The New York Times, Mugabe, Tsvangirai,
Arthur Mutambara had still not decided how to divide the
ministries, and Jendayi E. Frazer, the American Assistant Secretary of
State for African Affairs, said: "We don't know what's on the table,
and it's hard to rally for an agreement when no one knows the details
or even the broad outlines".
On 15 September 2008, the leaders of the 14-member Southern African
Development Community witnessed the signing of the power-sharing
agreement, brokered by Mbeki. With a symbolic handshake and warm
smiles at the Rainbow Towers hotel, in Harare, Mugabe and Tsvangirai
signed the deal to end the violent political crisis. Mugabe was to
Morgan Tsvangirai was to become prime minister,
the MDC was to control the police, Mugabe's
ZANU-PF was to command the
Arthur Mutambara was to deputy prime minister.
HIV/AIDS denialism in South Africa
Mbeki's views on the causes of AIDS, and in particular the link
between HIV and AIDS, and the treatment of AIDS have been widely
In 1995 the International Conference for People Living with HIV and
AIDS was held in South Africa, the first time that the annual
conference had been held in Africa. At the time Mbeki was Deputy
President and in his official capacity acknowledged the seriousness of
the epidemic. The South African Ministry of Health announced that some
850,000 people – 2.1% of the total population – were believed to
be HIV-positive. In 2000 the Department of Health outlined a five-year
plan to combat AIDS, HIV and sexually transmitted infections. A
National AIDS Council was established to oversee the implementation of
However, after becoming President, Mbeki changed tack and represented
the views of a small minority of eminent scientists who claimed that
AIDS was not caused by HIV. These included Nobel Prize winner Kary
Mullis, the U.S.A
National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Sciences member Peter Duesberg
as well as others with varying degrees of prominence. Mbeki found
their views compelling, although the overwhelming majority of
scientists disagree with them. On 9 July 2000, at the International
AIDS Conference in Durban, President Mbeki made a speech that
attracted much criticism in that he avoided references to HIV and
instead focused mainly on poverty as a powerful co-factor in AIDS
diagnosis. His administration was repeatedly accused of failing to
respond adequately to the AIDS epidemic, and including failing to
authorise and implement an overall national treatment program for AIDS
that included anti-retroviral medicines, and in particular an
antiretroviral programme to prevent HIV transmission from pregnant
mothers to babies while in the womb.
Mbeki's government did, however, introduce a law allowing cheaper
locally produced generic medicines, and in April 2001 succeeded in
defending a legal action brought by transnational pharmaceutical
companies to set aside the law. AIDS activists, particularly the
Treatment Action Campaign
Treatment Action Campaign and its allies, thought that the law was
intended to support a cheap antiretroviral drugs programme and
applauded Mbeki's government. However, the Treatment Action Campaign
and its allies were eventually forced to resort to the South African
Courts which in 2002 ordered the government to make the drug
nevirapine available to pregnant women to help prevent mother to child
transmission of HIV. Notwithstanding and despite international drug
companies offering free or cheap antiretroviral drugs, until 2003,
South Africans with HIV who used the public sector health system could
only get treatment for opportunistic infections they suffered because
of their weakened immune systems, but could not get antiretrovirals
designed to specifically target HIV. In November 2003, the government
finally approved a plan to make antiretroviral treatment publicly
available. It appears that this was only after the Cabinet had
over-ruled the President.
In November 2008, The
New York Times
New York Times reported that due to Thabo
Mbeki's rejection of scientific consensus on AIDS and his embrace of
AIDS denialism, an estimated 365,000 people had perished in South
Africa. A study in African Affairs in 2008 found that Mbeki's
government could have prevented the deaths of 343,000 South Africans
during his tenure, had it followed the more sensible public health
policies then applied in the Western Cape province.
Mbeki and the Cabinet
The South African Constitution allows the Cabinet to override the
President. The secret ballot appears to have gone against the
president when Cabinet policy declared that HIV is the cause of
AIDS. Again in August 2003, Cabinet promised to
formulate a national treatment plan that would include ARVs. At the
time the Health Ministry was still headed by Dr. Manto
Tshabalala-Msimang, who had served as health minister since June 1999,
and was promoting approaches to AIDS such as a diet of African
potatoes and garlic, while highlighting the toxicities of
antiretroviral drugs. This led critics to question whether the same
leadership that opposed ARV treatment would effectively carry out the
treatment plan. Implementation was slow requiring a court judgement to
eventually force government to distribute ARV's.
Delivery was further improved when
Thabo Mbeki was ousted, Dr. Manto
Tshabalala-Msimang re-deployed as the Minister of the Presidency, and
Barbara Hogan deployed to Minister of Health.
AIDS denialist connections
After he assumed the Presidency, he appears to have articulated more
clearly his understanding that poverty is a significant factor in the
prevalence of AIDS and other health problems. He urged political
attention be directed to addressing poverty generally rather than only
against AIDS specifically. Some speculate that the suspicion
engendered by a life in exile and by the colonial domination and
control of Africa led Mbeki to react against a portrayal of AIDS as
another Western characterisation of Africans as promiscuous and Africa
as a continent of disease and hopelessness. For example, speaking
to a group of university students in 2001, he struck out against what
he viewed as the racism underlying how many in the West characterised
AIDS in Africa:
Convinced that we are but natural-born, promiscuous carriers of germs,
unique in the world, they proclaim that our continent is doomed to an
inevitable mortal end because of our unconquerable devotion to the sin
ANC rules and Mbeki's commitment to the idea of party discipline mean
that he may not publicly criticise the current government policy that
HIV causes AIDS and that antiretrovirals should be provided. Some
critics of Mbeki continued to assert that notwithstanding he continued
to influence AIDS policy through his personal views behind the scenes,
a charge which his office regularly denies. However, in a 2007
published biography "Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred", author Mark
Gevisser describes how the president, knowing that he was writing the
biography, contacted him earlier in 2007. This was to ask whether the
author had seen a 100-page paper secretly authored by Mr. Mbeki and
distributed anonymously among the ANC leadership six years ago. This
paper compared orthodox AIDS scientists to latter-day Nazi
concentration camp doctors and portrayed black people who accepted
orthodox AIDS science as "self-repressed" victims of a slave
mentality. It described the "
HIV/AIDS thesis" as entrenched in
"centuries-old white racist beliefs and concepts about Africans". In
the published biography Mr Gevisser describes the president's view of
the disease as apparently shaped by an obsession with race, the legacy
of colonialism and "sexual shame".
Since release of the biography, President Mbeki's defenders have tried
hard to clarify his position as being an AIDS "dissident" as opposed
to an AIDS "denier". That is, he accepts that HIV causes AIDS but is a
dissident in that he is at odds with prevailing AIDS-focused public
health policies, stating that it is only one of many immune deficiency
diseases, many of which are associated with poverty, and that
political attention and resources should be directed to poverty and
immune deficiency diseases generally rather than AIDS specifically.
In January 2008 the South African government announced that it would
introduce electricity rationing. On 25 January 2008 the country's
deepening power crisis was such that South Africa's (and the world's)
largest gold and platinum mining companies were forced to shut down
Eskom (the national power supplier) and the government
both apologised for the blackouts and in his next-to-last State of the
Nation speech Mbeki devoted nearly three pages to the electricity
crisis, repeating the apologies of
Eskom and the government. Mbeki
blamed the power shortages on increased demand caused by years of
economic growth and the provision of electricity to black townships
that were not connected in the apartheid era. But Mbeki also admitted
the government had failed to heed warnings from
Eskom (the earliest 10
years previously) that without new power stations
Eskom might not be
able to meet demand by 2007. Each year over the preceding 10 years,
Eskom had produced annual Integrated Strategic Electricity Plans each
setting out scenarios of future investment requirements to cope with
projected increased demand, but although projections of average demand
growth in the period 2001–2005 had been accurate, no investment had
been forthcoming. Mbeki failed to respond to allegations that the
government's black empowerment strategy had been a root cause of the
problem in that small and medium sized black entrepreneurs, in
preference to large corporations, had been awarded coal supply
tenders. The policy of giving preference to small suppliers had caused
problems in securing reliable supplies of coal, and had also, because
small suppliers did not have the capital to invest in rail or conveyor
belts infrastructure but used coal trucks, accelerated the wear and
tear damage to the roads around the power stations. Warnings
highlighted in several of Eskom's annual reports, starting in 2003,
had been ignored not only by the
Eskom board but also its political
masters, Mbeki's government.
The power problems were further exacerbated by Mbeki's government
policy of attracting energy-intensive industry (such as Aluminium
smelters) through the carrot of cheap electricity. This meant that, as
Eskom's excess capacity ran out and became a deficit, the South
African government finds itself contractually bound to provide power
to energy-intensive industries. Despite this meaning the rest of the
country experienced traffic problems and business disruption due to
the blackouts. For
South Africa to remain a desirable foreign
investment destination the country must be seen to honour its
contractual obligations. To shut down the smelters is not a simple
process, said one analyst. Government would be paying the cost of
effects all through the relevant parties aluminium value chain – its
aluminium refineries and bauxite ore mines in other
In 2004 President
Thabo Mbeki made an attack on commentators who
argued that violent crime was out of control in South Africa, calling
them white racists who want the country to fail. He said crime was
falling but some journalists distorted reality by depicting black
people as "barbaric savages" who liked to rape and kill. Annual
statistics published in September 2004 showed that most categories of
crime were down, but some had challenged the figures' credibility and
South Africa remained extremely dangerous, especially for
women. In a column for the
African National Congress
African National Congress website, the
president rebuked the doubters. Mr Mbeki did not name journalist
Charlene Smith who had championed victims of sexual violence since
writing about her own rape, but quoted a recent article in which she
South Africa had the highest rate of rape and referred
(apparently sarcastically) to her as an "internationally recognised
expert on sexual violence". He said: "She was saying our cultures,
traditions and religions as Africans inherently make every African man
a potential rapist ... [a] view which defines the African people as
barbaric savages." Mr Mbeki also described the newspaper The
Citizen, and other commentators who challenged the apparent fall in
crime, as pessimists who did not trust black rule.
In January 2007, the
African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) draft report
South Africa was released. This noted that
South Africa had the
world's second-highest murder rate, with about 50 people a day being
killed, and that although serious crime was reported as falling,
security analysts said that the use of violence in robberies, and
rape, were more common. Mbeki in response said in an interview that
fears of crime were exaggerated.
In December 2007 the final
African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) report
on South Africa, again suggested that there was an unacceptably high
level of violent crime in the country. President Mbeki said the
suggestion of unacceptably high violent crime appeared to be an
acceptance by the panel of what he called "a populist view". He
challenged some of the statistics on crime, which he noted may have
resulted from a weak information base, leading to wrong conclusions.
Although rape statistics had been obtained from the South African
Police Service, "this only denotes the incidents of rape that were
reported, some of which could have resulted in acquittals" Mbeki
In May 2008 a series of riots took place in a number of townships,
mainly in Gauteng Province, which left 42 dead, several hundred
injured and several thousand displaced. The root cause of the riot
was xenophobic attacks on foreigners, mainly Zimbabweans who had fled
their country following the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy. The
migrants were blamed for high levels of unemployment, housing
shortages and crime.
Following the riots Mbeki was criticised for ignoring the scale of the
problem and failing to deal with the causes of it. The
Group accused him of being "more concerned with appeasing Mr. Mugabe
than recognising the scale of the problem caused by the flood of
Zimbabweans into South Africa."
In response to the violence President Mbeki announced he would set up
a panel of experts to investigate the riots, and authorised
military force against rioters. This is the first time that such
an authorisation of military force was used by the government since
the end of apartheid.
In 2004 the
Emeritus of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, criticised
President Mbeki for surrounding himself with "yes-men", not doing
enough to improve the position of the poor and for promoting economic
policies that only benefited a small black elite. He also accused
Mbeki and the ANC of suppressing public debate. Mbeki responded that
Tutu had never been an ANC member and defended the debates that took
place within ANC branches and other public forums. He also asserted
his belief in the value of democratic discussion by quoting the
Chinese slogan "let a hundred flowers bloom", referring to the brief
Hundred Flowers Campaign
Hundred Flowers Campaign within the Chinese Communist Party in
ANC Today newsletter featured several analyses of the debate,
written by Mbeki and the ANC. The latter suggested that Tutu
was an "icon" of "white elites", thereby suggesting that his political
importance was overblown by the media; and while the article took
pains to say that Tutu had not sought this status, it was described in
the press as a particularly pointed and personal critique of Tutu.
Tutu responded that he would pray for Mbeki as he had prayed for the
officials of the apartheid government.
Mbeki, Zuma, and succession
In 2005 Mbeki removed
Jacob Zuma from his post as Deputy President of
South Africa, after Zuma was implicated in a corruption scandal. In
October 2005, some supporters of Zuma (who remained deputy president
of the ANC) burned t-shirts portraying Mbeki's picture at a protest.
In late 2005, Zuma faced new rape charges, which dimmed his political
prospects. There was visible split between Zuma's supporters and
Mbeki's allies in the ANC.
In February 2006, Mbeki told the SABC that he and the ANC had no
intention to change the Constitution of the country to permit him a
third term in office. He stated, "By the end of 2009, I will have been
in a senior position in government for 15 years. I think that's too
Mbeki, although barred by the Constitution of
South Africa from
seeking a third term as president of the country, in 2007 entered the
race to be President of the ANC (no term limit exists for the position
of ANC president), for a third term, in a close battle with Jacob
Zuma. He lost this vote against
Jacob Zuma on 18 December 2007 at
the ANC conference in Polokwane. Zuma went on to be the ANC's
presidential candidate in the 2009 general election.
On 12 September 2008,
Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Chris
Nicholson ruled that Zuma's corruption charges were unlawful on
procedural grounds, adding there was reason to believe the charges
against Zuma had been politically motivated, thereby clearing the way
for Zuma to run for president. Mbeki filed affidavit and applied
Constitutional Court to appeal this ruling: "It was improper
for the court to make such far-reaching 'vexatious, scandalous and
prejudicial' findings concerning me, to be judged and condemned on the
basis of the findings in the Zuma matter. The interests of justice, in
my respectful submission would demand that the matter be rectified.
These adverse findings have led to my being recalled by my political
party, the ANC—a request I have acceded to as a committed and loyal
member of the ANC for the past 52 years. I fear that if not rectified,
I might suffer further prejudice." Tlali Tlali, National
Prosecuting Authority spokesman, stated by phone from Pretoria, on 23
September: "We have received the papers. It's under
Note: Unless otherwise specified, the terms "president" and "deputy
president" refer to roles in government, whereas "ANC president" or
"ANC deputy president" refer to roles in the ANC political party.
Having "made it a point not to contest this decision" of the ANC NEC
that Mbeki was no longer fit to lead South Africa, he formally
announced his resignation on 21 September 2008, at 19:30 South African
time (17:30 UTC), as a result of the ANC National Executive
Committee's decision no longer to support him in parliament. This came
a few days after the dismissal of a trial against ANC President Jacob
Zuma on charges of corruption due to procedural errors. Allusions were
made in the ruling to possible political interference by Mbeki and
others in his prosecution. Parliament convened on 22 September and
accepted his resignation with effect from 25 September; however,
because an MP for the Freedom Front opposition party declared his
objection to the resignation, a debate was set to take place the
In cases of such a void in the presidency, the constitution regulates
the replacement to serve as the interim president: either the deputy
president, the speaker of parliament or any MP (Member of Parliament),
as chosen by parliament, can take the role of president of the country
until the next election. ANC president Jacob Zuma, who was elected
president after the next general election, was not eligible as he was
at the time none of these.
The current deputy president
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was unlikely to be
chosen either, apparently due to her close ties to Mbeki and because
Bulelani Ngcuka was involved in the decision to charge
Zuma with corruption. As a result the Speaker of Parliament, Baleka
Mbete, had been cited as the likely caretaker president; however,
speaking on behalf of the ANC, Zuma strongly hinted at ANC Deputy
President Kgalema Motlanthe, who is an MP, becoming Mbeki's
replacement for the remainder of the current term of parliament, which
ended in early 2009. Although Zuma could put pressure on the
government and his party to choose Motlanthe, the replacement
president had to be decided by parliament.
Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Minister in the Presidency
Essop Pahad and Minister of Science and Technology Mosibudi Mangena
all announced their intentions of resigning.
Chief Whip of the ruling African National Congress
(ANC) stated that Mbeki's resignation would take effect on 25
September 2008. ANC President
Jacob Zuma said that his deputy, Kgalema
Motlanthe, would become acting president until 2009 general elections:
"I am convinced – if given that responsibility – he (Motlanthe)
would be equal to the task." The ANC confirmed that "Kgalema
Motlanthe is to become caretaker president until 2009 elections, with
Baleka Mbete being appointed deputy president."
2009 general election
The direction of Mbeki's vote in South Africa's 2009 general election
was a matter of discussion among press and public alike. Although
Mbeki had completely disassociated himself from party politics
subsequent to his resignation, many suggested that Congress of the
People (COPE), composed in large part of Mbeki loyalists, would secure
his mark on the ballot paper. On Election Day, 22 April, having done
the deed, Mbeki announced that his vote was a secret and called on the
electorate to exercise its democratic right not out of fear or
historical loyalty, but for a future that it desired and a party that
would further its ends. These sentiments were widely interpreted as
pro-COPE; indeed, the party's First Deputy President Mbhazima Shilowa
confirmed on his Facebook page that "i [sic] liked TM's
message". It was noted, though, that, despite having been
invited, Mbeki had failed to attend a COPE rally the week before.
Mbeki has received many honorary degrees from South African and
foreign universities. Mbeki received an honorary doctorate in business
administration from the Arthur D Little Institute, Boston, in
1994. In 1995, he received honorary doctorate from the University
South Africa and an honorary doctorate of laws from Sussex
University. Mbeki was awarded an honorary doctorate from Rand
Afrikaans University in 1999. In 2000 he was awarded an honorary
doctorate of laws from Glasgow Caledonian University. In 2004, he
was awarded an honorary doctorate in commercial sciences by the
University of Stellenbosch.
Orders and decorations
During Mbeki's official visit to Britain in 2001, he was made an
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB).[not
in citation given] The Mayor of Athens, Dora
Bakoyannis, awarded Mbeki with the City of
Athens Medal of Honour in
2005. During Mbeki's official visit to
Sudan in 2005, he was
awarded Sudan's Insignia of Honour in recognition of his role in
resolving conflicts and working for development in the Continent.
In 2007, Mbeki was made a Knight of the Most Venerable Order of the
Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem at St George's Cathedral in Cape
Town by the current grand prior, Prince Richard, Duke of
Mbeki was awarded the Good Governance Award in 1997 by the US-based
Corporate Council on Africa. He received the Newsmaker of the
year award from
Pretoria News Press Association in 2000 and
repeated the honour in 2008, this time under the auspices of media
research company Monitoring South Africa. In honour of his
commitment to democracy in the new South Africa, Mbeki was awarded the
Oliver Tambo/Johnny Makatini Freedom Award in 2000. Mbeki was
awarded the Peace and Reconciliation Award at the Gandhi Awards for
Durban in 2003. In 2004, Mbeki was awarded the
Good Brother Award by Washington, D.C.'s National Congress of Black
Women for his commitment to gender equality and the emancipation of
women in South Africa. In 2005, he was also awarded the Champion
of the Earth Award by the United Nations. During the
European-wide Action Week Against Racism in 2005, Mbeki was awarded
the Rotterdamse Jongeren Raad (RJR) Antidiscrimination Award by the
Netherlands. In 2006, he was awarded the Presidential Award for
his outstanding service to economic growth and investor confidence in
South Africa and Africa and for his role in the international arena by
the South African Chambers of Commerce and Industry. In 2007
Mbeki was awarded the Confederation of African Football's Order of
Merit for his contribution to football on the continent.
Mbeki is married to Zanele Mbeki and they have no children. Mbeki is
known to be an avid reader. He is the Patron of the Thabo Mbeki
Books and biographies
"A Legacy of Liberation:
Thabo Mbeki and the Future of the South
African Dream", by Mark Gevisser, 2009
" Eight days in September: THE REMOVAL OF THABO MBEKI", by Frank
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Deputy President of South Africa
Frederik Willem de Klerk
Frederik Willem de Klerk (1994–1996)
President of South Africa
Kgalema Motlanthe (as President)
Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri (as Acting President)
Secretary General of Non-Aligned Movement
Mahathir bin Mohammad
Created at 1999 CHOGM
Chairperson of the African Union
Nelson Mandela (1994–1999)
F.W. de Klerk
Mohammed Valli Moosa
Kraai van Niekerk
Dawid de Villiers
Prime Ministers, Vice State President, and Deputy Presidents of South
James Barry Munnik Hertzog
Daniel François Malan
Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom
Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd
Balthazar Johannes Vorster
Pieter Willem Botha
Vice State President
Frederik Willem de Klerk/Thabo Mbeki
Heads of State of South Africa
State President (1961–1994)
Charles Robberts Swart
Jozua François Naudé*
Jacobus Johannes Fouché
Johannes de Klerk*
B. J. Vorster
P. W. Botha
F. W. de Klerk
President (from 1994)
Chairpersons of the
Organisation of African Unity
Organisation of African Unity and the African
Organisation of African Unity
Secretaries-General of the Non-Aligned Movement
African National Congress
1912–1915 S. T. Plaatje
1915–1917 R. V. S. Thema
1917–1919 S. Msane
1919–1923 H.L. Bud-M'belle
1923–1927 T. D. Mweli-Skota
1927–1930 E. J. Khaile
1930–1936 E. Mdolomba
1936–1949 James Calata
1949–1955 W. M. U. Sisulu
1955–1958 O. R. Tambo
1958–1969 P. P. D. Nokwe
1969–1991 A. B. Nzo
1991–1997 M. C. Ramaphosa
1997–2007 K. Motlanthe
2007–2017 G. Mantashe
2017–present E. S. Magashule
1912–1917 J. L. Dube
1917–1924 S. M. Makgatho
1924–1927 Z. R. Mahabane
1927–1930 J. T. Gumede
1930–1936 P. ka Isaka Seme
1937–1940 Z. R. Mahabane
1940–1949 A. B. Xuma
1949–1952 J. S. Moroka
1952–1967 A. J. Lutuli
1967–1991 O. R. Tambo
1991–1997 N. R. Mandela
1997–2007 T. M. Mbeki
2007–2017 J. G. Zuma
2017–present M. C. Ramaphosa
1952–1958 N. R. Mandela
1958–1985 O. R. Tambo
1985–1991 N. R. Mandela
1991–1994 W. M. U. Sisulu
1994–1997 T. M. Mbeki
1997–2007 J. G. Zuma
2007–2012 K. Motlanthe
2012-2017 M. C. Ramaphosa
2017-present D. D. Mabuza
Structure and wings
ANC Women's League
ANC Youth League
National Executive Committee
Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College
Umkhonto we Sizwe
Congress of South African Trade Unions
South African Communist Party
United States of Africa
Alieu Ebrima Cham Joof
Abdias do Nascimento
Gamal Abdel Nasser
John Nyathi Pokela
Ahmed Sékou Touré
I. T. A. Wallace-Johnson
Molefi Kete Asante
Edward Wilmot Blyden
John Henrik Clarke
Cheikh Anta Diop
W. E. B. Du Bois
John G. Jackson
Issa Laye Thiaw
African Unification Front
All-African People's Revolutionary Party
Conseil de l'Entente
Convention People's Party
Economic Freedom Fighters
International African Service Bureau
Organisation of African Unity
Pan Africanist Congress
Pan Africanist Congress of Azania
Rassemblement Démocratique Africain
Black Star of Africa
Lion of Judah
All-African Peoples' Conference
Year of Africa
Chairs-in-Office of the Commonwealth of Nations
Mahinda Rajapaksa (2013-2015)
Maithripala Sirisena (2015)
Joseph Muscat (2015-)
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