Former president Thabo Mbeki has urged the people of Africa to celebrate the ANC’s centenary by rising against political and other leaders who abuse power for self-enrichment at the expense of the masses.
Delivering a lecture at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania last night, under the theme, “The Centenary of the ANC: Prospects for the Realisation of the Pan-Africanist Project”, Mbeki said African leaders, who used their countries as their “personal fiefdoms”, for wealth accumulation undermined African unity and renaissance. That included political, civil society, business and academic leaders, he said.
Mbeki’s speech came as many raised concern about President Jacob Zuma spending R200 million to upgrade his rural compound in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
In Cape Town yesterday, the ANC was relieved after the Cape Town High Court threw out the opposition’s application for Parliament to urgently debate a motion aimed at impeaching Zuma.
Had the motion proceeded, it would have subjected Zuma to the possibility of being unseated as the country’s president ahead of his party’s national elective conference in Mangaung next month.
In what was seen a scathing criticism of Zuma, Mbeki said during his OR Tambo Memorial Lecture at the University of Fort Hare, Eastern Cape, that he was concerned about a “dangerous and unacceptable situation of directionless and unguided national drift”.
Mbeki, who snubbed Zuma by failing to attend the ANC leader’s lecture in his honour in Aliwal North, Eastern Cape, two weeks ago, told his audience that Tanzanians and South Africans had to devise means to “celebrate the centenary of the ANC outside the borders of SA as well” because the ANC was an African regional liberation and anti-colonial movement.
Urging Africans to act “consciously” as their own liberators, Mbeki emphasised that the ANC’s founding fathers had asserted that the continent could only solve its problems within the context of a Pan-Africanist perspective.
He also called on people to take a stand against “serious weaknesses” in the continent’s democratic practices, including the “corruption of our electoral processes”.
“This is combined in the abuse of power, resulting in some of our countries being treated as personal fiefdoms that are used as a base for self-enrichment,” Mbeki said.
“All this raises vitally important questions about what, together as African citizens, we should do to hold our political and other leaders to account.”
Mbeki called on the continent to heed the warning of political scholars, Seithy Chachage and Chachage Seithy L Chachage, who called for the emergence of strong civil society, independent labour and people’s movements.
He warned against the practice of divide and rule based on “tribe and race”, which “unfortunately continues to inform much of our continental politics”.
He praised the contribution of Tanzania, under its former president Julius Nyerere, and the Tanzanian University in the advancement of Pan-Africanism.
Mbeki said the forced removal of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo in April last year, and the invasion of Libya by Western forces “conveyed deeply worrying messages about the future of our continent”.
“Libya remains in the grip of an internal violent conflict and, as we had predicted, the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime by NATO-led forces has created a very dangerous situation… The outcomes that were achieved did not emanate from strategic decisions we took as Africans, but from decisions taken by others outside our continent.”
Mbeki’s statement could be seen as a veiled attack on Zuma, whose country voted for a UN resolution authorising intervention in Libya before crying foul that the West had misused the resolution to effect regime change. Zuma had also personally mediated unsuccessfully in the Lybia crisis before Gaddafi’s assassination.