The coffin carrying the remains of the late former Zimbabwean leader, Robert Mugabe arrives at the National Sports stadium during a funeral procession in Harare, Saturday, Sept, 14, 2019. A memorial service for Mugabe will be held at the Durban hall at 4pm and will be addressed by Thabo Mbeki.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Durban - The mooted Robert Mugabe memorial service to be addressed by former ANC and state president, Thabo Mbeki, on Tuesday in Durban will mark Mbeki’s first prominent return to KZN in 13 years.

According to a flyer issued by the ANC in KZN, the memorial service will be held at the Durban hall at 4pm and party structures are expected to come out in full force.

The last time Mbeki addressed a political event that involved ANC structures in KZN was in December 2006 in Pietermaritzburg during the reburial of the remains of Moses Mabhida who died in Mozambique in 1986. Because of the apartheid regime policies that barred its opponents from returning home even after death, Mabhida, a senior alliance leader, was buried in Maputo.

In 2006 his body was returned from Maputo but that historic reburial turned into a nightmare for Mbeki as he was booed by a crowd that was sympathetic to Zuma whom he had fired for alleged corruption in June 2005. 

The firing marked the turning point for Mbeki as he was seen by Zuma’s supporters as trying to use the now-infamous Schabir Shaik corruption trial to derail Zuma’s presidential ambition.

The tensions were at the highest between 2005 and 2007 when Zuma was eventually able to dethrone Mbeki in Polokwane.

In October of that same year, Mbeki was disrupted by a crowd believed to be sympathetic to Zuma while he was launching Mahatma Gandhiâ’s Satyagraha movement together with then Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.

Since then, Mbeki had stayed away from party structures in KZN, instead of focusing on government business. He also came to the province to attend Unisa-related events, as the current chancellor, but never attended his party’s events.

He would later disappear when he was recalled as state president in September 2008 and occasionally re-emerged in other parts of the country, but stayed away from KZN.

However, with the Zuma camp unravelling in KZN and out of the power that once enabled him to maintain support through patronage, some of his former supporters have moved on to back current ANC and country President Cyril Ramaphosa.

But political analyst Xolani Dube, said the reason why Mbeki was going to KZN was to pay tribute to Mugabe, an African leader, not to address internal party issues. 

He added that Mbeki would have gone to any province that invited him to do the same and would have turned down an invite if he was asked to deal with party issues.

“Mbeki is advancing the African agenda hence he felt the need to come to speak at a memorial service of an African leader like Mugabe,” Dube said.

He stressed that Mbeki had launched the African Renaissance programme which stressed the importance of African brotherhood and his decision to come down to Durban could be used to quell the demon of Afrophobia. 

Political Bureau