The Ghost of an Mbeki- Second Coming !


  • What could  it mean for the ANC Election future ?
  • There are some  journalists and others in different corners who see the recent appearance of the former President Thabo M. Mbeki at the Centenary celebrations as the re- awaking or second coming of Thabo Mbeki. The City Press makes bold “Mbeki is back”.
  • Flipping through the newspapers this subliminal message is vividly portrayed. The Sunday Times article goes as far as speculating on three scenarios of what his so-called return means. One article even refers to his dress code of a pin-stripe shirt decorated with cufflinks and a tie as a STATELY presence setting him apart from all who chose for this day centenary wear manifested in golf-shirts. This claim warrants unpacking, which I will attempt.Mbeki in my assessment ascended the proverbial throne in age too early, which has made him at retirement a relatively young retired and former president. At the time of his recall not that he had years but only 7 months left, he was not ready to retire, partly because his work was not done and the African agenda was beginning be solidified under his visionary leadership.

  • I have always held that Thabo Mbeki must be called the true Africa President, in my assessment he was never a South African domestic president and his passion for foreign affairs shaped his presidency.
  • It was essential for him to centralize all power in Government control manifested in a synapses of arteries connected in his former director general, to allow him the space to travel yet keep control of domestic issues. The logic of such centralisation of power as attested to by the late Kader Asmal in his memoirs “Politics in my blood” makes only sense when one understands the Africa Agenda Mbeki was pushing. South Africa in my opinion was the platform for such Africa and world presence.
  • He had a litany of projects and programmes directly linked to the adopted African Renaissance dream that held him hostage as defining character of his tenure. Therefore parting at the time with such powerful office could not have been for him easy. He will hold he stood because there was a nomination, and such claim rightfully cannot be argued at face value.His attempt to run for a third term in the ANC was born from such conviction that he still had work to do.
  • He therefore could have felt, an ANC presidency would afford him opportunity to direct, influence and command this Africa Agenda potentially steering whoever is president of South Africa to fulfill such obligation of and African Renaissance. His speech at GIBS in the dying days of his tenure attests to this confusion when he quips he does not know if he speaks as ANC president or South African president.
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  • There he toyed with the idea of a break in party presidential nomination tradition echoing the sentiments which Archbishop Tutu and Professor Barney Pityana later would chorus after he was recalled, that South Africans must be afforded the right to vote their choice of president. It is also said that Mbeki had leaned more to a woman led presidency to be his successor.
  • Subsequent to his recalling in September 2008, he drafted letters to the ANC presidency informing the president and NEC of his intention to be absent from domestic partisan politics. This Mbeki confirmed even in writing to me in person as he pleaded his actions of permeating absence were not born out of hurt or disrespect. His contention was he did not want to be seen as one attempting to rule from the grave.
  • The mind behind such decision we can only speculate given the dynamics personal hurt and many other less expressed or known factors. However though he opted for such the ANC still called on him to canvas, at least when Fikile Mbalula publicly stated “when we call comrade Mbeki to give support in canvassing for the ANC we expect him to come as a loyal member of the ANC”.

  • The same Mbeki was perceived to have desisted, lending credence to him still dealing with the pain of recall. Newspapers were aflood with his deliberate absence at key events, parliamentary openings, yet he would protest that each time he was not available he had informed those who invited him for he had a prior engagement mostly abroad.
  • To argue that Mbeki is on a second coming is on the one hand a type of ghost argument, the same I am seeking to argue, yet at another level it is about understanding the soluble mind of a politician.Firstly, it is no secret that until the launch of TMALI, Mbeki was very silent and quiet except for his African assignments.
  • Yet in the last year and more from the mid year of 2011, Mbeki became very visible. I fear no contradiction that one can almost see a deliberate communications strategy and campaign championed by his personal assistant, Mukoni Ratshitangara. He posted on every group in social media platforms and send emails of every speech of Mbeki, at times, he hogged all groups on social media context punting the presence of Mbeki in domestic context. This was clear for all to see that the consciousness of an Mbeki was emerging as an orchestrated communications action. It is also not rocket science that Mbeki addressed many more domestic  forums in this period.It is interesting that such also takes place as the challenges around Zuma began to emerge, perhaps it is purely coincidental, and it would be unfair to read anything more into such. Mbeki’s profile in public domain measured in visibility increased in leaps and bounds, perhaps because some as is claimed have been lobbying him to come out if his self imposed exile. Mbeki, is a honorary member of the NEC and may attend its meeting if he so wishes, yet as Mandela found it not proper to do so, Mbeki adopted such also.

    To understand why Mbeki had been absent is to understand that he took his cue from Former President Mandela who except for one time when he berated the HIV&AIDS policy and practice remained quiet not wanting to steal the Mbeki thunder adopted this stance. Having therefore opted to adopt and practice such choice of non involvement in domestic political domain, he had to prove honorable though he may have been tempted to at times it must be acknowledged he remained true to his decision not to prove vocal on domestic affairs until now.

    Yet the first true sign of a possible change of heart was initiated by the claims of Advocate Willem Heath, who should be really accredited for bringing Mbeki formally back into the domestic political fold. Mbeki clearly admits he was forced out of his preferred silence by Heath’s claims. Needless to say, he used that platform to proverbially tease the newsreaders by saying there is much he can share. With this, he in my opinion extended the Heath issue and turned it around as a subliminal campaign for his presence. Clever move I would grant, attesting to the fact that the tactician has not lost his touch.


  • Mbeki confirmed his attendance at the Centenary celebrations this I hold is out of his loyalty for the ANC. Yet we may speculate what would have happened if the COPE project had worked. Mbeki,  I said before was relatively young at his recall and obviously has much to offer no different to Bill Clinton or a Tony Blair. He is beyond doubt an astute mind, has vaults of experience in organisational context, and has an epistemology that deserves respect.
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  • Another core issue is that he consistently proves vocal and committed to the African cause and at times proves a solitary voice of opposition against the new form of colonialism. At times he truthfully carried the torch of  Africa’s independence when even AU members and leadership appeared lost in the moment when they had to lead.
  • One of the things I absolutely discern and respect is firstly the African and nationalist mind of Mbeki. It is common knowledge that he and the late Gadaffi had no love between them yet such did not cloud his defense of Libya against the onslaught of an agenda of regime change. The disrespect of the leading superpowers shown towards the Africa Union irks the daylight out of a Mbeki, as his many efforts and unsolicited articles would attest. He led a signatory campaign which many of us penned our signatures to.
  • One is not sure if this is also a personal matter for the man I choose to call the Africa President, who sees this as an attack on his labour, toil and leadership, which I already stated constitutes the aorta of his legacy.
  • Politics remains a game and place not for the fainthearted, in which old wounds seldom heal and the opportunity of retribution remains a prayed for occasion. It is amazing how an Mbeki, is held up as a ghost and nightmare for a Zuma second term. Whilst Mbeki in my mind will not prove any challenge he nevertheless has support in the ANC and has a score to settle in straightening his marred domestic and organisational legacy.Yet, Mbeki must stay clear from being tainted with the Malema agenda which at face value has degenerated from a very critical economic redress debate to a personal, less thoughtful, scandalous and disrespectful in organisational embrace, attack of leadership deserving of due censure. Malema is groping on to all and anything to extend his short-lived political career.

    He recently and of late has lost sight of the true National Democratic Revolution ( there will be those who will even argue he never understood the NDR) and its ideals and has been playing into the hands of opposition political parties acting as an enemy of the sitting ANC president. He is fast loosing his claimed grip on the ANCYL leadership as well known in-fights begin to emerge though naturally vehemently denied  by the ANCYL.

    Many have seen the signs of Malema’s future and have casually walked away like Tony Yengeni, Motlanthe and others. Someone once noted there is a distinct difference in the perception and practice of discipline between former Umkhonto we Siwze members and those who never were part of such, as a Malema is of the latter, one may deduce this observation holds. MK Members would disagree with leadership yet proved disciplined to act all times in the interest of the movement and.


  • Today the City Press carries a storyline on the Treasurer General Matthews Phosa statements in Limpopo we all know that Phosa while being a claimed outside wild card simply do not have the wherewithal to ever become president. He has like most always aspired, but has never been a hot favorite not in a Mbeki era and he was blamed by some for the leaks on Motlanthe.
  • His comments and views expressed on the Chancellor House Company and it’s finances when he became treasury general is still remembered, for it appears Phosa is not trusted anywhere hence he seeks to defend a Malema in preempting the Appeals hearing. To his credit it must be said that he has previously defended a Malema in his first disciplinary hearing.  I would not be surprised if he in his position will raise the Malema issue in the NEC, as a means to get him off the hook for a greater political agenda.
  • Perhaps Mbeki’s biggest contribution to the second term debate and actions would be to boost a Kgalema Motlanthe candidacy. He may influence and persuade those in the ANC to motivate for a Motlanthe election. By default helping the Malema ‘wild’ campaign. Mbeki and Phosa had their moments in the sun with each other, Mbeki when he orchestrated the investigations of Phosa, Sexwale and Ramaphosa in the famed myth of presidential toppling as led by the late Steve Tshwete who told Phosa “this is all politics and when it’s over you and I will sit and share a glass”.Phosa had his moment when he on the eve of the recall was instrumental in communicating to Mbeki the NWC decision to recall him.
  • Whether these two have agreed to mutual peace pipe-smoking remains neither here nor there, the question is can Malema’s suspension unite former political foes in Mbeki and Phosa, I think not for Motlanthe stands in between and it’s my view that Mbeki will put his support behind a Motlanthe as to a Phosa.
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  • Yet it is claimed Motlanthe betrayed Mbeki at the last minute as Chris Kilowan puts in typical ‘rysmier’ politics when he was counted on. Motlanthe at Polokwane surprised all for though he was categorized a Mbeki man, he opted for the Zuma group at the time. It is said he remains a not to be trusted character that plays his cards close to the chest and may prove surprising when one least expects. Whether he and Mbeki had smoked the peace pipe since remains an unknown question, yet I hold that Mbeki trusts him more than any of the other aspiring ones.
  • Tokyo Sexwale has gone silent for the race for ANC presidency is now even murkier if the ghost of an Mbeki presence counts for anything. Sexwale too is no friend of Mbeki and has his own ambitions for which it is speculated he has been spending like billionaire Patrice Motsepe on a non-performing but ever-hopeful Mamelodi Sundowns who simply cannot get any silverware for its investments on votes from ANCYL leadership.
  • With Motlanthe, Phosa and Sexwale all in a race for presidency the road to Mangaung will deliver many jolts, twists, and turns in the bumpy less predictable contestation of testosterone politics. Has anyone given thought that perhaps a woman may be walking away with the proverbial crown, for such is also a possibility, or is the ANC not yet free from its archaic patriarchial trapped history exemplified in male leadership.The ghost of Mbekism could in the final analysis prove simply a ghost for with the three ambitious characters Motlanthe, Phosa and Sexwale (and it is absolutely their ANC membership right to contest) who all are in bed with the personality politics of a Julius Malema for their own personal reasons, who will never work for each other and a limping Malema.

  • In my book Zuma will walk with it again for these are not unified and not even a ghost of a Mbeki second coming can unite these aspiring ones. Zuma will walk with it again notwithstanding the challenges of DA legal applications, Constitutional Court findings, ANC appeals committee findings and the many things the 2012 year will bring as the Arms Deal hearings begin in all earnest and many including Mbeki are called to answer questions never answered.
  • Maybe the newscarriers and journalists make too much is made of a Mbeki return, maybe it is a ghost even a nightmare which will send hearts racing for a while.  Maybe a sleepless night or two but with the distinct blessing one will wake up from the sleep, perspiring though to the realization Mbeki is a veteran therefore history and part of our past from which we can learn much and must be afforded that rightful place for he deserves such no different to any other former ANC president.

  • Yet we will thank him for having added a twist maybe even a jolt in this much publicised succession debate.
  • Respectfully submitted,Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
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