Mbeki laid the foundation for democratic SA – Zuma
President Jacob Zuma says South Africa has become a better place to live and invest in with each passing day since the advent of democracy in 1994. However, he admitted that there was room for improvement in government’s performance.
Addressing a lecture in the Eastern Cape yesterday to pay tribute to former president Thabo Mbeki, Zuma said millions of South Africans were contributing each day to make South Africa better.
“We admit that our challenges are many and persistent, but they do not overshadow the fact that each new day brings forward possibilities of a better South Africa. We admit as well that the performance of the state must be improved further. Simple projects such as delivering textbooks on time have been a problem for this administration for more than a decade and we need to get it right,” he said.
Zuma praised Mbeki for laying the institutional foundation for the democratic state during former president Nelson Mandela’s incumbency and his own time in political office.
He said under Mbeki the democratic government had developed ethical standards and practices as it could not use the “unpopular, corrupt, unaccountable, secretive and alienated administration” of the erstwhile National Party as its benchmark.
The lecture, which Mbeki did not attend, had sparked a lot of interest as the two men had had a titanic fallout that split the ANC down the middle before Zuma emerged victorious in Polokwane in 2007. This eventually led to the ANC booting Mbeki out of office a few months before his term as the country’s president was due to lapse.
A relative of Mbeki’s, Nobantu Mbeki, thanked the ANC on behalf of her family.
However, Zuma steered clear of giving his thoughts on his controversial fights with the former president or his controversial views on HIV/Aids, the circumstances that led to his own axing as deputy president 2005, or Mbeki’s recall.
However, he said the number of people living with HIV had since stabilised and that the rate of mother-to-child transmission of the HI virus had come down from 8% in 2008 to 3.5% in 2011.
He described Mbeki as being “like a true statesman” who put the national interest above his own when the ANC leadership called on him to resign in 2008.
“Regardless of the circumstances of his departure from office, President Thabo Mbeki’s record as an exceptional and distinguished cadre and leader of the ANC remains deeply etched in our history.
“What defined him most as a loyal cadre of the organisation and true patriot was his conduct during the difficult and devastating period of his recall from office,” Zuma said.
He also lauded Mbeki on his attempts to bring about peace and cooperation on the continent. He said the former president’s travels in the continent had opened his eyes to “the ugly legacy of colonialism, of poverty, underdevelopment and poor governance”.
“It is not surprising therefore that the African Renaissance became the central tenet of the country’s foreign policy outlook under his leadership, with a focus on ending poverty and underdevelopment on the continent.
“However, he resisted attempts to cast South Africa as hegemonic on this continent and positioning it as one among the sovereign equals,” he said.
Zuma also had his audience in stitches when he shared anecdotes about some of the missions he undertook with Mbeki for the ANC in exile.
He spoke about how Mbeki told him his stomach was churning as they met the representatives of the Afrikaner community for the first time in exile.
He also regaled them with tales of how former sports administrator and politician Louis Luyt broke down and cried in their meeting after he had heard Mbeki speak.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe is expected to deliver the last of the 12-lecture series next month, which will focus on Zuma.