Former president Thabo Mbeki. Picture: @MYANC/Twitter

Johannesburg - Former president Thabo Mbeki has painted the tenure of his ANC successor Jacob Zuma as being riddled with maleficence and dishonesty that he could not publicly associate with.

Mbeki was speaking at the Rand Easter Show in Nasrec, south of Joburg, where he campaigned for the ANC for the first time after he left office more than 10 years ago.

In a major boost for the ANC days before the May 8 elections, Mbeki said some of the reasons he threw his weight behind the party include the organisation’s admission in the manifesto of past wrongs, including veering off course as well as corruption and lawlessness.

“It was very important that the ANC should say that, to say to the people of South Africa, we recognise that there are these things and the language is very strong when you say that you have veered off course,” Mbeki said.

He was defeated by Zuma for the ANC presidency in the watershed Polokwane conference in 2007 before he was removed as state president in October 2008, nine months before his term ended.

Wearing an ANC T-shirt under his unbuttoned jacket and flanked by ANC Gauteng chairperson David Makhura, Mbeki signed the party voting pledge for the May elections and called on people to rally behind the organisation.

He took a swipe at Zuma’s ANC, effectively accusing it of being in denial about the many wrongs that were committed during his tenure.

“As they were busy veering off course, they were saying, ‘We have got a good story to tell.’ There was a period where I could not personally, in all honesty, come and say ‘David, please vote for the ANC,’ knowing very well the wrong things that were happening. It would not be honest of me to go and talk to people like that,” he said.

Mbeki said the ANC now had detailed commitments to deal with pressing challenges confronting the country, including plans for the economy, health and education.

“These are commitments, detailed, not broad but specific in this context that we don’t want to continue veering off course or continue to say we have a good story to tell when things are going wrong.

“It is in that context that it becomes possible to come back and to be active publicly like this,” he said.

Mbeki, however, warned that it was not enough for the ANC to admit that it had lost its way in the past years, adding that the party must ask itself why it did so to avoid a return to the wrong path.

He accused backers of Zuma of not wanting the party to have honest discussions about internal problems, saying that they had also blocked the discussion of his last political report in Polokwane.

“There is something strange that happened in Polokwane, which is that there was a very strong campaign in the conference not to discuss that report and it was never discussed, and it was the first time ever. It was not discussed because there were people in the ANC who did not want the ANC to discuss its politics and to be honest about itself,” he said.


Meanwhile, EFF leader Julius Malema also visited his party’s stall at the Rand Easter Show on Tuesday, where he expressed confidence that his party would go toe-to-toe with the ANC in the battle for Gauteng, including support in its traditional strongholds, such as townships.

Malema poured cold water over Mbeki’s decision to actively campaign for the ANC, saying it reflected desperation. “The EFF is going to be the biggest player in this election. That is why the ANC is now resurrecting Mbeki. If they had a way they would even go to Qunu,” he said.

Political Bureau