Zuma’s Mbeki lecture had its hits and misses

2012-11-17 12:43

In Aliwal North last week, President Jacob Zuma delivered a lecture on his predecessor, former president Thabo Mbeki.

Besides being a tribute to Mbeki, the lecture was an interesting combination of a state of the nation address and an ANC campaign.

As such, it was thin on the analytical aspects of Mbeki’s legacy on South African foreign policy in Africa and the rest of the world.

Zuma praised Mbeki for his intellectual contribution to the ANC and the liberation struggle in South Africa, and his peace and politico-economic development efforts on the continent and the world.

Throughout the descriptive and historical part of the speech, Mbeki was highlighted as an intellectual asset of the ANC.

Dwelling on the policies of Mbeki’s administration and their successes in promoting socioeconomic development in the country, the president was proud to extend his speech to include the recent census results, which reflect improvement in living standards since 1994.

He also noted improvement in HIV/Aids treatment and prevention. However, he omitted that it was during Mbeki’s leadership that South Africa implemented one of the world’s best HIV/Aids policies.

Nonetheless, Mbeki is an indisputable second-generation Africanist after the likes of Julius Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah, and a 2012 African of the Year Award winner.

Had the president’s speech put more emphasis on Mbeki’s areas of excellence on the continent, it would have been more powerful.

The lecture limited the tenets of the African Renaissance to the “country’s foreign policy outlook under (Mbeki’s) leadership, with a focus on ending poverty and underdevelopment on the continent”.

The African Renaissance seeks to reassert the continent as capable of solving its own problems.

Africa’s renewal transcends continental boundaries. Among its objectives is to ensure that the world and multilateral institutions of global governance respect the continent.

Perhaps it is this misconception of the African Renaissance that led South Africa to vote in favour of Nato’s involvement in Libya.

In this regard, the current ANC leadership failed to honour Mbeki’s legacy.

Directly and indirectly, Mbeki put Africa on the global map and has contributed to the promotion of good governance in Africa.

The continent’s share of world trade increased from 2% to 3% between 2002 and 2010.

Foreign direct investment tripled over the same period.

The world is witnessing a decrease in internal conflict and moves towards democratisation across Africa.

However, the current ANC leadership is silent on its role in taking the African Renaissance forward.

Notwithstanding the setbacks on the part of the current ANC leadership to take forward Mbeki’s legacy, Zuma’s lecture on his predecessor gave hope that the Mangaung aftermath could realise ANC unity.

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