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Johannesburg - Former president Thabo Mbeki distinguished himself in the ANC as a cadre and as a leader, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday.
“Today we reflect on the legacy of our 11th ANC president. A committed cadre, comrade, leader and son of the ANC,” Zuma said at the party's centenary lecture honouring Mbeki.
“For me personally he was a friend and a brother for many years.”
Mbeki did not attend the lecture; his spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said he was busy with the Sudans issue.
Zuma said Mbeki had played a critical role in the life of the African National Congress, and contributed immensely from the period of 1990 during negotiations for transformation.
“President Mbeki became one of the leading cadres of the movement that epitomised the ANC's beliefs.”
Zuma was addressing a large crowd at the Sauer Park Stadium in Aliwal North in the Eastern Cape.
This was part of the ANC's centenary celebrations. Each month was dedicated to a former president of the party.
While delivering his speech Zuma had a slip of the tongue when he said Mbeki was born in 1994.
He realised his mistake, chuckled and said: “He's not a 'born-free'.”
Mbeki succeeded former president Nelson Mandela as president of the country in June 1999.
After almost two terms in office Mbeki tendered his resignation in 2008, following the ANC's decision to recall him.
This was after he was defeated by Zuma at the party's elective conference in Polokwane.
Before he started his address Zuma led the crowd in singing “somlandela uMbeki yonke indawo” (we shall follow Mbeki everywhere).
Many in the marquee at the stadium danced and showed two fingers, signifying a second term for Zuma.
The ANC holds its elective conference in Mangaung in December. - Sapa