Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Continued Struggle over the Mbeki Legacy

As the South African economy continues to reel from the instability in the international economy there is now brewing a fierce debate in the country about the combined policy legacy of both Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. 

After two decades of neo-liberal economic policies the country has not been able to drastically cut the levels of poverty that exist in the country. Thus there is now a moment of critical reflection of the policy agenda that was pursued by the ANC and this has been fuelled in part by the growing influence of the Economic Freedom Fighters. However there seems to be a growing dissatisfaction with Thabo Mbeki and the role that he has played as the architect of the new South Africa.

Patrick Bond in a recent op-ed for the Mail & Guardian critiqued the Mandela legacy stating:

Insiders like Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and ANC stalwart and former minister Ronnie Kasrils have equally been critical of the compromises Mandela made. In 2013 Kasrils explained how Mandela signed a self-sabotaging “Faustian Pact” with global capital.
The Continued Struggle over the Mbeki Legacy
In mid-1994 I saw those devils up close when I participated in government policy debates as editor of the Reconstruction and Development Programme White Paper, and again as drafter of the aborted 1996 National Growth and Development Strategy (Gear). My view is that there’s a bit of ‘structure’ – externally-imposed necessity – and individual ‘agency’ in answering ‘both’ to the question: “Was Mandela pushed, or did he jump? (12 January 2016)

The person that he wants to speak of is really Nelson Mandela’s deputy and future successor Thabo Mbeki. It is a known fact that the post-apartheid South African policy architecture has been defined by Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki is the person that brought the World Cup to the African continent, advocated the African Renaissance and was the only major world leader to champion the UN Millenium Development Goals as domestic policy.

There is a generation of Black business people that owe their status and opportunity to the policy agenda that was established and created by Mbeki in the form of affirmative action and the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).In many ways the Black middle class in South Africa is a result of the Mbeki administration. It is important to note that even as Mbeki was forced to depart office by the left there has been no major dramatic change in the policy agenda of the country. The current protests in South Africa around tuition fees was instigated by the lack of action by a minister that is a member of the communist party. This is not to mention the issues surrounding the Marikana massacre. While the Mbeki policy agenda has been heavily criticised it hasn’t been dramatically transformed.

Then there is the “realpolitik” of ANC internal politics, which tends to be the sore point when discussing Thabo Mbeki. The bitterness of the leadership election between Mbeki and Jacob Zuma continues to show it’s after effects in South African civic society. The combined effort by both parties to use the state apparatus and the tactics of the underground movement to vie for political power in the 2007 ANC leadership contest is still being played out in the media. For this writer it is this part of Mbeki’s legacy that is most disputed based on the mere fact that it is filled with rumour, lies, half-truths and he said-she said between the Mbeki and Zuma camps.

It is this legacy that is being used to tarnish and malign Mbeki’s political legacy. It has become open season to make any accusation about Thabo Mbeki whether it is true or not and this partly a result of the failure by his political opponents to change his policy agenda. Mbeki has become the scapegoat for the Zuma years and the discontent that now pervades South Africa. Written by Ryan "On Africa" Williams


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