Revisionism, Myths and Legends: the Thabo Mbeki Story

2014-03-26 09:56

Much is being written about Thabo Mbeki currently, with revisionists and the DA having a field day in his support. Maybe there are some votes to be had from such support, but they are unlikely to come from better informed and savvy voters.

Because after correcting for lapses of memory, the smoke and mirrors show that characterized Mbeki's era comes back into focus to counter the simplistic assumption that anything or anyone is better than Zuma – which is, of course, a strong starting assumption. But it is hardly enough.

The worst icons of Mbeki’s time in office were arguably not even those to have become clichéd - such as

> AIDS denialism,

> cozying up to Mugabe;

> rampant crime;

> electricity blackouts;

> xenophobia;

> presidential jets, and

> arms deal pay-offs

- but the things he failed to do.

It can with justification be argued that Mbeki was a charlatan who gave the impression of gravitas and holding considered opinion, but whose actions – or their lack – told another story. He fooled a lot of people and one revisionist perception is that Mbeki was economically astute. Even the CIA World Factbook was duped at the time and had this to say - "South African economic policy is fiscally conservative, but pragmatic, focusing on targeting inflation and liberalising trade as means to increase job growth and household income." The facts spoke otherwise. In practice Mbeki banged on about “inequality” - an inevitable consequence of a developing economy and peripheral to the nation's economic needs - rather than promoting growth, expanding employment and promoting a vibrant business environment. Instead he acquiesced in and promoted an artificial and mega rich black elite that added value only for themselves. Some examples of his by now oft’ forgotten lapses include:

1. On Mbeki’s shift, the developing world’s economy grew at twice the rate of South Africa’s and more than 750 milllion people emerged from poverty worldwide. But in South Africa unemployment levels grew to the highest in the world.

2. On Mbeki’s watch we became the world’s #1 Nannie state, called on to support the indigent and unemployed discarded by a mismanaged and dysfunctional economy. This occurred notwithstanding a willing and able international financial community ready to invest in “the New South Africa”.

That trajectory continues to this day with a state propped up by a fragile, unsustainable and withering tax base.

3. Thabo Mbeki focused on the ill defined and esoteric “African Renaissance” whilst South Africa’s state education deteriorated at the hands of Sadtu - at permanent cost to the nation. He was a Walter Mitty dedicated mainly to his dreams.

4. He got bribe money from the arms deal – which he split between the ANC and Zuma

5. He thrived on conspiracy theories and imagined himself to be a statesman rather than a servant of the people.

There are more examples where those come from, but the point is made and one is entitled to ask - What did this guy really do for the nation?

And – more topically - who in right mind would pin their hopes and values on such a legacy?

The answer, tragically enough, seems to be the DA.

** Visit the dedicated News24 page for all the latest updates regarding the upcoming elections.**

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