Thabo Mbeki: Something has gone wrong with political parties

2014-05-23 09:00

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Former president Thabo Mbeki has bemoaned the state of political parties in Africa, saying “something has gone wrong” because leaders wanted positions to serve their own pockets.

Speaking at a conference on African solutions to African problems organised by the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria last night, Mbeki said the leaders of liberation movements fought against corruption and could speak about it, but this wasn’t true of political parties today.

“Answers don’t come from political parties, they come from somewhere else. [Parties] pretend that it comes from them.

“They would talk about being servants of the people. Because in the end, you could get shot and get killed, you are not in the liberation movement because of a position, but it puts you in the first line of fire,” he said.

He asked if there were any political parties that could really say they served the people, because leaders tended to get into positions to line their own pockets.

Although he spoke with some scepticism of NGOs that are funded from outside the continent, Mbeki said the pan-African civil society movements should be revived.

He said the answers to African problems would come from an intelligentsia, which could look “critically at what has happened”, but the demobilisation of many of the pan-Africanist civil society movements on the continent pointed to a problem.

“Once, we had a very strong and vibrant all-African students movement with affiliates,” he said.

“The pan-African youth movement, similar, where is it? The pan-African women’s organisation; why have all these organisations disappeared? Your organisation of African trade union movements, I don’t see it, I don’t hear of it, why?

“Even bodies like the all-Africa conference of churches, why is it not there? What is it that happened that has led to this layer of continental progressive organisations to disappear?

“We have got to reactivate our trade unions and women’s organisations,” he said.

The conference is set to continue into the weekend and culminate in Africa Day celebrations tomorrow and on Sunday.

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