Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Mbeki: Giving up the ghost?
I think I will be expanding on this in a ThoughtLeader post shortly, but all the signs of the last few months point to an internally combusting Thabo Mbeki. Careering from one badly-handled crisis to the next, Mbeki has lost all of his stately airs and pistol-whipping control that allowed him to gloss over such crises in the past. It really does seem that he is stubbornly holding to his post, whilst at the same time doing as little as possible as to his presidential duties.

Since Polokwane, Mbeki has been an absolute ghost of his former self. Much of this has to do with the decision-making power stripped from him through the Polokwane mandate, but this does not give a full picture. The Mbeki of old would have come out firing in every direction, paranoid eyes flaring, attempting to show up the 'new power' in the ANC and 'prove' that the masses made a mistake in not continuing his reign as party president.

His absolute withdrawal from his duties in the past six months is incongruous with the Thabo Mbeki we have known oer the past decade. It could be explained by a personal depression from his leadership failures; or it could be explained by a feeling that the public will villify him whatever path he chooses. Or, as Mark Gevisser writes in his excellent biography of Mbeki, he could be realising that he has been responsible for his own ultimate sin, his presidency failing to live up to a lifetime of service to the party - "a dream deferred".