14 February, 2009
Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki is a South African politician who served almost two terms as the second democratically elected President of South Africa from 14 June 1999 to 24 September 2008. On 20 September 2008, he announced his resignation after being recalled by the African National Congress's National Executive Committee. following a conclusion by Judge Nicholson of improper interference in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), including the prosecution of Jacob Zuma for corruption. On 12 January 2009, the Supreme Court of Appeal unanimously overturned Judge Nicholson’s judgment, but the resignation stood.
Thabo Mbeki was the executive face of governement in South Africa from 1994. Not rated as a statesman domestically, his government was characterised by centralising power and a mixed legacy of poor delivery, corruption, nepotism, good economic growth, and successful foreign policy (excluding Zimbabwe).
Economically he managed a world beating 4.5% average growth. Mbeki created employment in the middle sectors of the economy and oversaw a fast growing black middle class with the implementation of BEE. This growth exacibated the demand for trained professionals strained by emigration due to violent crime, but failled to address unemployment amongst the unskilled bulk of the population. He attracted the bulk of Africa’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and made South Africa the focal point of African growth. He was the architect of NEPAD whose aim is to develop an integrated socio-economic development framework for Africa. He also and oversaw the successful building of economic bridges to BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations with the eventual formation of the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue Forum to "further political consultation and co-ordination as well as strengthening sectoral co-operation, and economic relations".
His domestic policy allowed the economy to flourish at the expense of cross-class employment. Education and health care became more broadly accessible, and were accompanied by an alarming drop in standards. Safety generally improved except for uncontrolled violent crime. His focus on being an African Prime Minister and failure to surround himself with better people led him into the same trap as General Louis Botha whose foreign acclaim did little to alleviate the resentment of his domestic failings. This, and his failure to continue the progress made under Nelson Mandela in nation-building, his obsession with racist rhetoric, conspiracy eventually cumulated in the failure to anticipate and deal adequately with the 2008 Xenophobia Attacks.
Mbeki's international acclaim is well deserved. He had many successes in resolving difficult and complex issues on the African continent including Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Ivory Coast, and some important peace agreements. He oversaw the transition from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to the African Union (AU). His 'quiet diplomacy' in Zimbabwe is blamed for protracting the survival of Robert Mugabe's regime, but may yet yield longer-term stability at the cost of thousands of lives and intense economic pressure on Zimbabwe's neighbours. He became a vocal leader of the Non-Aligned Movement in the United Nations and while leveraging South Africa's seat on the Security Council, aggitating for reform of the Security Council.
Mbeki was slammed worldwide on his HIV/AIDS stance. His questioning of the link between HIV/AIDS and poverty and the AIDS rate in Africa was widely misunderstood as a challenge of the viral theory of AIDS. His fate was not helped by Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and the overhaul of the pharmaceutical industry in South Africa. The delay in distributing Anti-Retro Virals (ARVs) is attributed to South Africa having one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection and death rates in the world.