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MBABANE – Ex-President Thabo Mbeki says he awaits His Majesty the King to give him an opportunity to advise him on solutions to the country’s political challenges.

The former South African head of State said the Thabo Mbeki Foundation was approached by ‘many people’ to intervene in Eswatini’s political impasse. In order to learn to understand the background of the problem and to find a solution to it, he told SABC during the commemoration of Africa Day last week that he spoke to all relevant stakeholders in the country. He said the stakeholders included civil society, political parties and government. Mbeki, who remains active in foreign policy, explained that he informed His Majesty King Mswati III of his mission to consult with the stakeholders in the country. He said the Thabo Mbeki Foundation has completed the consultations and the report was ready to be shared with the King.


He hoped the Southern African Development Community (SADC) would support the process undertaken by his team. He mentioned that SADC would have to support the process because it was keenly interested in seeing the Eswatini problem getting resolved. As a result, the former president said he wanted to brief the King on what the people submitted and proposed during the engagements. “I’m awaiting the report back to the King,” he said. “We want to report to him on what the people said.” Mbeki turns 81th on June 18. The country’s political problems can be traced to three opinions by different sectors of opinion. They are as follows:

* Multiparty democracy – There is a faction believing that the Tinkhundla System of Government should be dismantled in favour of a political party-system. They are of the view that the King should be above politics, assume a ceremonial role as a unifier. 
* Elected prime minister – Another group says the prime minister must be elected by the people. The appointment of the prime minister is currently the prerogative of the King.
* Content with Status Quo – There are emaSwati who are of the view that political reforms should be undertaken within the confines of the Tinkhundla System of Government.

Government Spokesperson Alpheous Nxumalo said no one was aware of such consultations having been carried out by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation in the country as it was claimed by the former president of South Africa. In that video clip, he said, the former president claimed to have consulted all emaSwati across all political spectrums. “How can that be if you and I are not even aware or remember being consulted?” wondered Nxumalo. He said he wouldn’t want to believe that former President Mbeki was being creative or even authoring an encyclopaedia of lies, perhaps, the media needed to call upon him to clarify or elaborate on his statement.


“Till then, the statement will be viewed by many as suspicious and misleading,” Nxumalo said. Director of Communications at the King’s Office Percy Simelane, said they had no record of the fact-finding mission in question. He said his office is only one year 10 months old and could not have captured this operation. He said his statement did not mean the mission did not come to Eswatini. “It’s just that we have no fossils on the sands of time pointing to their once- off visit,” he said. However, he recalled that Mbeki made an attempt to come to Eswatini  to have an audience with emaSwati, but the media got the story before it became official and published it. He said the story was published before he could properly negotiate his coming to Eswatini. The director said he then decided not to come, arguing that emaSwati would not take it kindly.

He wondered why the local media did not report on this mission and why the targeted stakeholders had not mentioned this engagement in so many years. “We are also wondering why what looks like Swati social challenges were christened problems by the Mbeki Foundation. We believe problems and challenges are two different things,” the director of communications at the King’s Office said. Barnes Dlamini, the President of Swaziland Democratic Party, said he was interviewed by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation. He said he met the Thabo Mbeki Foundation with the late Thulani Maseko. As much as he could not recall the dates, he said he did, however, meet the foundation. Dlamini said Mbeki himself came to the country before and after the civil unrest. He said he needed to check files to recall exactly where they met with the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.   


Meanwhile, Mbeki succeeded Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s second post-apartheid president. In his article published by the Conversation on July 21, 2022, Sanya Osha said Mbeki had to squarely address challenges of acute inequality and the numerous grievances of the black majority after Mandela’s era of multiracial and multicultural rainbow nation initiatives.
Osha is a Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Humanities in Africa, University of Cape Town. He holds a PhD in Philosophy. According to Osha, Mbeki was born in what is now the Eastern Cape Province to fairly educated and politically conscious parents – Epainette, a schoolteacher, and Govan, a contemporary of Mandela and other freedom fighters of that era.
His father was seldom home as he pursued the cause of freedom for South Africa. According to the research by Osha, Thabo had to grow up fast and joined the youth league of the African National Congress (ANC), when he was only 13.

It is mentioned in Osha’s research that Mbeki is attractive to many intellectuals beyond South Africa because of his thinking about pan-Africanism, the African renaissance and neocolonialism. All these issues are pertinent in Africa and its vast diaspora, which put Mbeki in the spotlight of the pan-Africanist movement. Numerous works have been written on his tenure as president and his legacy. The researcher said Mbeki found his second wind as probably the most respected African elder statesman after his ignominious exit as ANC leader. His transition from national politics to the African continental stage has been without great fanfare but quite effective.


As the ANC, which has governed South Africa since 1994, became afflicted by widespread corruption and deadly politicking, Osha said Mbeki kept above the fray. His nemesis and erstwhile deputy Zuma, who succeeded him as president, went further in tarnishing the ANC brand and legacy in the most disrespectful manner. “Mbeki is not a charismatic leader; neither does he pretends to be. He does not possess Mandela’s charm or Zuma’s demotic earthiness, which can move people to declare they’d kill for him,” analysed the university’s researcher. Mandela had a winning smile that floored Hollywood A-listers. Zuma sang and danced his way into the hearts of the South African masses and wasn’t afraid to make a fool of himself. On the other hand, Osha described Mbeki as always remained aloof. His appeal was largely among intellectuals. Mbeki is rather a conscientious technocrat equally at home with other technocrats such as Phumzile Ngcuka and Trevor Manuel.


During his tenure as ANC president (1997-2007), Mbeki couldn’t woo the rank and file in his party with rousing speeches delivered with visceral directness. That isn’t his forte. He is, instead, a manager of systems and institutions and a purveyor of ideas. Mbeki is a promoter of pan-Africanism – the quest to unite Africans in pursuit of a united, prosperous Africa. The researcher said Frantz Fanon, the Haitian revolution, the Harlem Renaissance and important milestones of black empowerment powerfully shaped Mbeki’s ideological make-up. There is a certain cosmopolitanism present in his outlook. But the masses of the South African people did not appreciate it. Instead, he was deemed cold, unresponsive and, therefore, uninteresting. This, more than any other failing, was the reason for his political downfall. It is a pity that Mbeki’s invaluable work on continental affairs isn’t much valued in South Africa.

Beyond South Africa, Mbeki is increasingly being considered among African intellectuals such as Tovin Falola (Nigeria), Paul Zeleza (Malawi) and Mammo Muchie (Ethiopia). He’s placed in the same league as African philosopher-kings like Senegal’s Leopold Sedar Senghor, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere.  At 80, Mbeki still articulates his pet concerns of African unity, African renaissance and pan-Africanism with diligence and precision. His analyses are usually well-considered and deserving of attention. His interventions to end the Ivorian and South Sudanese crises are noteworthy. Mbeki continues to function as probably the most resourceful elder statesman on the African continent. For instance, he was involved in efforts to solve the impasse that has pitted Anglophone Cameroonians against their Francophone counterparts.


He was also involved in efforts to resolve the crisis in the Great Lakes Region. The conflict has been called Africa’s First World War because of the number of external actors and African nations engaged in the scramble for the region’s mineral wealth. Because violence anywhere on the continent tends to have broader continental consequences, Mbeki makes it his business to try to prevent outbreaks of war and mayhem. In Cote d’Ivoire, he led initiatives to resolve the confrontation between two presidential aspirants, Alassane Quattara and Laurent Gbagbo. Their bloody stand-off put their country into a downward spiral. Finally, Mbeki has advised that to end the civil war in South Sudan, all the stakeholders should be involved in the peacemaking process. It is clear that Mbeki has successfully transitioned from being an old horse of his party, the ANC, to a highly venerated and in-demand African elder statesman. And just as Nkrumah was, he is more respected on the continent than in his country. Given his attitude, composure and utterances, Mbeki seems quite natural in speaking and acting on behalf of the entire continent. The information on Mbeki’s peacekeeping mission and intervention is the work of Sanya Osha.