Mbeki decries the beloved country
Former president breaks his silence and airs harsh sentiments about the governing party.
Former ANC and state president Thabo Mbeki has, in an unusual move, slammed the ANC’s leadership for failing to provide direction to South Africans.
He has also questioned the calibre of leaders the former liberation movement is producing and expressed “great unease” about the future of the country.
Mbeki had previously sworn himself to silence on domestic politics after his forced resignation as president in 2008 and instead focused his energies on mediation efforts in Africa.
He delivered the OR Tambo centenary lecture at the University of Fort Hare in Alice in the Eastern Cape, sharing a stage with ANC Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola, a fierce anti-President Jacob Zuma lobbyist.
» He is “deeply troubled by a feeling of great unease that our beloved motherland is losing its sense of direction”;
» He is “not certain about where our country and nation will be tomorrow, and what I should do in this regard to respond to what is obviously a dangerous and unacceptable situation of directionless and unguided national drift”;
» In his years as ANC leader the party failed to sustain “politically mature and committed (ANC) cadres” but instead the ANC has been invaded by “staff riders” who were only after money and power; and
» The Marikana tragedy was an “eminently avoidable massacre”.
Mbeki delivered this lecture on Friday, the same day that his successor, Zuma, who is seeking re-election in December, pleaded with the media and opinion makers to stop “talking our country and the economy down”.
Mbeki’s lecture also comes weeks ahead of an ANC centenary lecture in his honour, set to be delivered by Zuma early in November in Aliwal North.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said the party agreed with Mbeki on the challenges South Africa faces and the calibre of ANC members.
But he said Mbeki was wrong about the failures of the party and the state, and about the “bleak” future the country faces.
“We think we’ve done well, but we can do better.
Comrade Thabo knows that we’re dealing with serious issues of backlogs and neglect.
We respect comrade Thabo a lot, but we cannot share this view (that South Africa is heading for gloom).”
He said the ANC might try to meet with Mbeki to discuss his views.
Asked why he had broken his silence around domestic politics, his spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said Mbeki was only responding to the issues facing the ANC in its centenary year.
“Anybody who speaks about OR Tambo or any past president of the ANC must talk about South African politics.”
The lecture was attended by people associated with the campaign against Zuma, including ANC MP Nyami Booi and businessman Mikki Xayiya, who is close to Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale.
Not one of the ANC’s provincial leaders, who support a second term for Zuma, was there.
An ANC lobbyist against Zuma who attended the lecture said Mbeki “was just there to make us regret the decision we took in Polokwane”.
He said: “He was really hitting hard. I just hope people will listen this time around.”