Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2008-12-08 Reporter: Janet Smith Reporter: Beauregard Tromp

Mbeki's Dream for Africa



The Star




Janet Smith, Beauregard Tromp

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'Continent has to solve its own problems'

Exclusive: Ex-president's first interview since leaving office

Former president Thabo Mbeki says he had given the Ginwala Inquiry his full co-operation, and he expects the report - which has yet to be made public - to vindicate him.

In his first interview since leaving office, Mbeki
denied vehemently, once again, that he had any knowledge of any wrongdoing on the part of National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi.

Referring to recent reports about what is in the Ginwala report - the inquiry having been appointed by Mbeki to investigate whether suspended national director of public prosecutions Vusi Pikoli was fit for office, after his decision to arrest Selebi for his alleged involvement with organised-crime figures - the former president indicated that he found the analysis about it frustrating.

With chairperson Frene Ginwala's report having been handed to President Kgalema Motlanthe,
Mbeki said he remained convinced that no proper evidence of wrongdoing had been brought to him about Selebi when he was in office.

Mbeki's frustration around the Selebi-Pikoli matter - not to mention the current temper in South African politics, which was
not up for discussion in the interview - was being offset by his plans for a leadership institute. He said he was now building a new life.

Speaking at his new home in Killarney, Joburg, Mbeki said other African heads of state and government were behind his controversial leadership institute, which is being established at Unisa.

Sources close to Mbeki said he has been approached by Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi.

Mbeki indicated that this high-level support would allow his institute to take a leading role in implementing policies for peace and human rights on the continent.

Although he "had had his two terms and was no longer president", there had been concern from other African leaders as to "how do we retain your capacities".

Mbeki said he was immediately motivated by this "critical challenge", but it was his long-term connection to Unisa vice-chancellor Barney Pityana which was questioned when the university announced it would give the institute a base.

In a recent debate on Mbeki's legacy, hosted by The Star, Pityana confirmed his support of the former president, saying South Africans "need to appreciate Mbeki's presidency because of his
intellectualism *1, his clear leadership and his consultative manner to lead the government".

The vice-chancellor - who has since declared an interest in the Congress of the People (COPE) party - faced the fury of the National Education Health and Allied Workers' Union, some members of the academic staff and some sections of the student body for apparently failing to consult them about Unisa's backing of Mbeki. Yet champions of the project agree that the time is ripe.

Although the Unisa link with the institute came under fire from the start, Mbeki reminded that he had been "saying for some time" that
the continent's great weakness was a dearth of resources *2 to implement stability.

Mbeki headed the formation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development and the African Union, and was a peace broker in Rwanda, Burundi, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.

This, he has said, would be sufficient basis on which to secure commitment to his philosophy that the continent must solve its own problems. Mbeki strongly reiterated this standpoint, "especially with regard to renaissance and renewal - we must really own that process".

"We have arrived at a position, through the African Union, of a general policy position with regard to agreements about democracy and human rights.

"The political perspective, similarly the economic perspective, now is: Where should we go?

"Quite a comprehensive body of policies was adopted by the continent, but we need people to promote the implementation. The great weakness is not the absence of policies, but how to achieve them."

There is a photograph of the ANC national executive committee of the late 1970s behind his desk in his new home. He took it off the wall and brought it over, tracing his finger above every member's name, transcribed neatly in white ink.

His is there too, Mbeki having been newly appointed to the NEC in 1975, after being co-opted onto the committee following the controversial Morogoro Conference in 1969.

The 1970s was possibly the ANC's most challenging decade in terms of mobilising the masses, the necessity for the propaganda of armed action more vital than ever.

With acknowledgements to Janet Smith, Beauregard Tromp and The Star.

*1       If this is the best Africa's got, we're sure in a sorry state.

*2      Including intellectual resources.

Most on the continent want to fight it out rather than solve it.

With Mbeki his brain fails him :