Shanti Aboobaker

Political Bureau

FORMER president Thabo Mbeki celebrated his 70th birthday a day early, on Sunday, but yesterday was “a normal working day” for him, his spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said.

Among the guests were Mbeki’s mother Epainette, 96; Frank Chikane, former director-general in the Presidency during Mbeki’s two terms as president; and Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota, who was minister of defence in Mbeki’s cabinet.

President Jacob Zuma was in Mexico at a Group of 20 meeting.

Ratshitanga said he had not seen Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe or ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe at the party. It was unclear whether they had been invited.

Early yesterday, the ANC Youth League wished Mbeki well and commended him for his work on the continent.

The youth league helped Zuma to gain election as ANC president at the party’s national conference in Polokwane in 2007 and campaigned for Mbeki to be recalled as president in 2008. The youth league is now opposed to Zuma being elected for a second term.

“As president of the ANC, comrade Mbeki has led the collective charge for the renewed development of the African continent, notably through the African Renaissance and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development,” youth league spokeswoman Khusela Sangoni-Khawe said.

Mbeki has worked extensively in brokering peace in Sudan, now divided into two countries.

“We commend comrade Mbeki’s continuing commitment to the development of African leadership in particular and the role he continues to play towards the attainment of the Freedom Charter demand that ‘South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation – not war’,” Sangoni-Khawe said.