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Mbeki gone, who's next?
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-09-25 09:34:00
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I suppose the way the South African president Thabo Mbeki is leaving comes as sort of a surprise - not meaning that it was unfair or unexcused. His failure in foreign policy, especially with the Zimbabwe issue, was not the critical point, I think Mbeki was everything the opposition blamed Nelson Mandela unfairly for; a conservative, often too compromising, leader with nothing new trying to implement old methods in a state that needed a modern push and attitude.

A great part for all that is behind Mbeki’s dispute with his former deputy and leader of the African National Congress Party (ANC), Jacob Zuma. Mbeki has been a good student of the British economic and political methods and he has applied them to his best in South Africa. Regarding the state of international economy and the sense that south Africa has for long been explored only to certain directions, Mbeki’s leadership led the country to the miracle 5% growth every year the last few years investing with his Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy into an open market, privatization and of course a market depending on investment.

But naturally Mbeki forgot what his power stands on. Despite all his efforts over the last few years to reinstate the ANC with younger and more neo-liberal style members he could not totally change the roots of the party, a party with memories from the big struggle that finished only two decades before. The unions have always been the stronghold of the party and the unions are left. And the left is allergic to all those neo-liberals and their often extreme capitalist policy. So this left became fiercely arguable and oppose to Mbeki’s policy and their opinions has been for the last few years excluded and ignored by the president and his government.

The South African Communist Party a strong ally to the ANC has opposed the GEAR strategy as catastrophic for the recovering from the apartheid country pointing that the extreme privatizing lad to the death of the small businesses and to a new slavery and instead of helping development of a nation led to an increasing – dramatically increasing – unemployment and the death of the small businesses while more and more of the leading businesses fall in the hands of international enterprises and cooperatives.

And if that was not enough Mbeki turned a party political dispute into a personal vendetta when he accused leading members of the party of plotting against him personally sending them in the hands of the minister of security and safety. The three party officials that became victims of his conspiracy theories happened to be the former ANC general secretary Cyril Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale with Mathews Phosa, long respected party personas without till today having clear what the accusations were and why he led them to a public embarrassment.

Actually most have end up to believe that it was all a plot from Mbeki’s side to weaken any opposition inside the party after the reactions to his neo-liberal policies and most of all to stop any ambitions for the presidential seat from the ones who could threaten him more. Not very democratic and that might explain Mbeki’s zealously to Mugabe’s democracy!

So the political and the personal vendettas joined and had as a result the end of Mbeki’s presidential time and hopefully the end of his policies as well. South Africa is one perhaps the biggest local if not continental power and democracy founded by Nelson Mandela and should stay a role model for the other African nations and not another bad example; that means that the responsibility laying on the president of South Africa is gigantic and people like Mbeki were to small to hold it.

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