July 31, 2011 § 3 Comments
*Originally appeared on the Cape Times
It would appear as if the very same people who wanted Thabo Mbeki gone are the very same people who miss him terribly now. We all remember how Malema said, “Mbeki is the best leader the ANC has ever produced… the most educated and clever,” a few weeks ago. The irony of course being that the man Malema supported, “100% Zuma”, is in office and he’s busy singing the praises of his predecessor, the man he helped get kicked out of the presidency. “A week is a long time in politics.” Harold Wilson once remarked when he was British Prime Minister those many years ago. If two weeks is a long time, then two years is a lifetime.
For Malema, a man who actively campaigned around the country against Mbeki for Zuma to say something like that speaks volumes. Louder than the trumpets that shook the walls of the Biblical city of Jericho. At one point after Zuma publicly lambasted him, Malema said Mbeki would never have done something like that, he would have taken him aside and spoken to him. Malema was excoriated for saying that because he was indirectly giving Mbeki praises above his current president.
When Thabo Mbeki was on Metro FM over the past week, the social networks lit up like I haven’t seen over him in a while. Many started calling him Dr Thabo Mbeki. Something I’ve never heard before. The comments on the social networks were going on about how intelligent he was, how great it was to hear someone who knew what he was talking about as opposed to someone who was saying what his advisors were telling him.
It is important I think to remember that the two presidents have two different styles. Mbeki didn’t live up to Mandela many said. Now that Zuma is president, they are saying he is not living up to Mbeki. Funny enough, Mandela was generous in his praise of Mbeki when he said, “No President or Prime Minister in the history of this country can claim to have done more for the people and the country than has been achieved by President Thabo Mbeki.”
What I always find interesting in regards to Mbeki is the reaction of white people when I say that Mbeki is missed. More often than not, one gets a rather violent reaction from white people. The favourite subject of choice is that Thabo Mbeki is a murderer because he killed thousand of people during the HIV AIDS crisis. He has been called an AIDS denier amongst other things. These are just some of the reactions one encounters when one starts singing Mbekis praises, particularly from white people. Remember, I’m not saying all white people, I know how reactionary we get when we mention race in SA.
What I find strange is that the people who were least affected by the HIV AIDS epidemic are the least forgiving. Yet those who were most affected are the ones who seem to miss him more. The question then needs to be asked, do some of these white people say these things because they think we will agree with them because we were affected? Or do they think that there is something wrong with us for thinking that Mbeki is great despite his stance on AIDS? (His position was misrepresented by the way, and it’s not something I want to get into right now.)
One keeps hearing whispers in the corridors of influence from people who say, not too loudly, how much they miss the former president. He may not have been the best human being but he was a brilliant man they say.
It is clear that South Africa’s loss has been Africa’s gain. With the formation of South Sudan, and Mbeki having been at the forefront of the formation of that nation, it is clear that he has included his name on yet another page of history. This has made many people realize that they miss iZizi