This title is a story about home and exile. It is a story, too, of political intrigue; of a revolutionary movement struggling first to defeat and then to seduce a powerful and callous enemy, of the battle between unity and discord, and the dogged rise to power of a quiet, clever, diligent but unpopular man who seemed to take little joy in power but have much need for it. No African leader since the uhuru generation of Nkrumah and Nyerere has been as influential. Five Books interviews are expensive to produce, please support us by donating a small amount. We ask experts to recommend the five best books in their subject and explain their selection in an interview.
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Investors balked. The appraisals were harsh. And then there were his controversial policies. He questioned the idea that H. To most of the world, Mbeki is a puzzle — and not a very likable one at that. Even in this abridged version, the book is an impressive feat of journalism. Born in , he spent his earliest years in the Transkei, in the Eastern Cape, where his mother ran a country store. But she was often in debt and harassed by the authorities. As a young boy, Mbeki read and wrote letters for illiterate customers, fashioning communication between wives and their husbands working in the cities, sharing their hopes, confessions and hardships.
At age 8, he was sent away to school. Mbeki joined the African National Congress at age 14 and went into exile six years later, in His father, Govan, who had rarely been at home, was arrested and jailed on Robben Island in with Mandela and other A. Mbeki spent decades without a home or a family — essentially in transit. His only child, from a teenage romance, disappeared. Mbeki earned an economics degree at Sussex University in England, where he had several English girlfriends Gevisser interviews some of them.
And it was Mbeki who — still a relatively young man in an organization that bowed to age and experience — persuaded the graying lions of the A. Gevisser writes well, particularly when he is witness to an event, when his narrative leaps off the page. Govan Mbeki, who had been more activist than parent, insisted that he be buried in a dilapidated, litter-strewn local cemetery near Port Elizabeth.
This produced, as Govan must clearly have understood it would, a painful tableau for his son, the president who had not succeeded in lifting most of his countrymen out of poverty.
He notes that while this is not an authorized biography, Mbeki did cooperate, agreeing to be interviewed seven times, for a total of about 20 hours. During that time, Mbeki never asked Gevisser a question, resisted all small talk and did not touch any food. So it is that Mbeki is sometimes described for pages as patient, hardworking and humble.
But later, Gevisser will also tell us that Mbeki was intensely disliked by everyone around him and considered ambitious and conniving. It is hard to reconcile the pieces. In exile, Mbeki preached negotiation with the South African government while many of his peers talked war. And prodding the African National Congress to embrace the free market was the equivalent of heresy. With such a record of challenging orthodoxy and being proven right, Gevisser says, it was natural for Mbeki to question the scientific community on the origins of AIDS.
Publicly, Mbeki gave up arguing on this point some time ago. But Gevisser says that his views have not changed. In exile, Mbeki was known as the A. He favored whiskey, smoked a pipe and was available to debate politics deep into the night. When I was covering South Africa from to , that Mbeki was nowhere to be found.
He was prickly, distant, quick to dispatch his enemies and surrounded by yes men. Home Page World U.
Who Is Thabo Mbeki?
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Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred
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Thabo Mbeki : the dream deferred
Investors balked. The appraisals were harsh. And then there were his controversial policies. He questioned the idea that H. To most of the world, Mbeki is a puzzle — and not a very likable one at that.