Thabo Mbeki – The Man who Kept His Name

2016-01-16 08:10

Odds are that Thabo Mbeki is at peace with himself, and that is the reason he is pouring out his soul recently to his fellow South Africans; with a promise of further engagement through weekly letters.

The first article he just wrote is gentle, more human, more vivid, more intimate and accessible.

He must have his own faults, perhaps even grievous ones. But the future generations will learn, not to the absence of frailty in his personal character, but a certain gravitas of statesmanship, a kind of respectability that he conducted himself at the global stage.

He had that kind of deep passion zeal to engage the big issues of the time and grappling with defining Africa within the context of today. The architecture of leadership, all the theories and guidelines falls apart without integrity and an aura of respectability: gallant and presidential in appearance.

The story of Thabo Mbeki the person, can be simply told. He was raised by great hope, he was a leader of thought and led by thought.

The well known historic fact about Thabo Mbeki is that he was raised within the liberation struggle context, to become a philosopher-king. His father Govan Mbeki was a graduate of University of Fort Hare while his mother Epainette was a professional teacher. Both active in the struggle of the liberation of South Africa from foreign domination.

Later the young Thabo Mbeki was handed to Oliver Tambo who further developed him along those notions: to lead and guide his people with wisdom: philosopher king.

Nelson Mandela handed over the baton to him with those idealistic conceptions of him becoming a philosopher-president. Even before then while he was still Deputy President to Nelson Mandela it was commonly believed that the tactical wisdom of the Nelson Mandela administration revolves around him.

In Plato’s ideal society, philosopher kings and elite Guardians shepherd the people with enlightened guidance.

But the pestering question has always been: Did Thabo Mbeki executed this personal historic mission of his life when he was President of South Africa? Did he act and conduct himself in the mould and the great hope he was raised on?

Writers, opinion moulders, pundits, politicians, students, twitter and facebook walls are polarised and in confusion.

Thabo Mbeki is making it a point in his recent re-appearance into the public domain that the views that people have about the times of his presidency are shrouded in lies: malicious and non-malicious lies, lies told, lies magnified, lies fraudulent, murderous lies, accidental lies. Being lied to, being lied against and being pushed.

His reasoning is rooted in the fact that as stories travels from the closed corridors of power by one mouth to another; new layers are invented and added, often so viciously that the original source often finds it unrecognizable. And the damage is done, and history is denied the truth and the facts: reality is confused.

Any careful attention to the tone of the article he just wrote (the first) reveals that here is a reluctant scribe, but one who, ultimately, concluded that he had little or no choice to correct the errors and establish the truth. He is seeking to offer the last word on his presidency. Fortunately the majority of the people mentioned in that article and those who attended the closed meetings he mentions are still with us and accessible for confirmation and validation of the story. So there can be no question that he is stating matters that are factual.

Thabo Mbeki was an actor, a role player: gentle and overbearing. The transformation of the Organisation of African Unity  (OAU) into the African Union, the naming of the 21st century as the African Century,  and the establishment of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) all flowed from his impulse in seeking to make Africa stand toe to toe with the rest of the world.

As I said, with the passing of time, his leadership credentials are likely to receive wider appreciation and exaltation while his flaws slip into insignificance.

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