Former president Thabo Mbeki. Picture: Sharon Seretlo/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Former president Thabo Mbeki has blamed a lack of sense of history by those who occupied positions of responsibility for the rampant maleficence and wrongdoing in the country.

Mbeki was speaking during his 77th birthday dinner on Tuesday night in Illovo, Johannesburg, where his foundation was also fundraising for the construction of the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library.  

Mbeki said the wealth of information that would be placed in the library would play a critical role in highlighting current bad conduct by providing access to the past, including sacrifices that were made for the country’s liberation and the value system that underpinned those sacrifices.

“If you look at our past, there was a value system which informed these things. You see some of the negative things happening in South Africa today and you can see that even if you talk to people and say to them, ‘but you can’t do that’, they don’t understand what you are talking about because they have no sense of that value system which made so many of our people sacrifice their lives in order to liberate us,” Mbeki said.

Mbeki said the library would include the record of arrival of the ANC in government and the challenges that those who were deployed faced.

“I arrived in government as a deputy president. It is an empty office except for a desk, a chair, a small table, a telephone and that is all, and I am told ‘you are the deputy president of South Africa’. What do you do? There is not even a scrap of paper to say what it is that was done by the previous deputy president. We need to understand that story because to understand it gives us the possibility to say, what kind of South Africa we should be,” Mbeki said.

Mbeki said the library will have records of the negotiations to end apartheid, meetings between the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, and former ANC president Oliver Tambo and engagements between Tambo and Cuban communist revolutionary Fidel Castro and his advisers on the transition period regarding nationalisation – when Mbeki was a designated note taker.

Mbeki, said the records – and the library – would give South Africans the possibility to reflect on some of its current dilemmas.

“Let us make all of that available to all our people. The past and the present, so that all of us are better able to define a better future. That is what this library has to do,” he said.

Political Bureau