Mandela saw Mbeki falling on his sword

ANALYSIS – This weekend's tumultuous events that have created a governmental vacuum and a presidential crisis, were prophetically forewarned by former president Nelson Mandela back at the ANC's 1997 conference in Mafikeng.

Madiba’s speech spoke of the tense relationship and challenges within the ANC, and its allies in the post-94 political environment.

Significantly, Mandela voiced concerns about Mbeki’s interpersonal leadership style. "One of the temptations of a leader who has been elected unopposed, is that he may use his powerful position to settle scores with his detractors, to marginalise them and in some cases get rid of them, and to surround himself with yes-men and women."

"The leader must keep the forces together, but you can’t do that unless you allow dissent… People should be able to criticise the leader without fear or favour. Only in that case are you likely to keep your colleagues together," Mandela said.

In the ironic tone of "but Brutus is an honourable man", Mandela added: "I know our President understands these issues. He is not the kind of man to sideline anyone".

Of course Mandela had publicly identified that very paranoid side of Mbeki that ended his 52 years career in the ANC – 10 years as president – and unceremonial exit after spending almost 15 years in the country’s Presidency.

He was brought down by the very same people who were once his comrades, and those he never thought highly of.

It was ironic, sweet-revenge that former super spy – Billy Masetlha – surprisingly ushered in ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe to deliver the news of Mbeki’s downfall. Mbeki fired Masetlha after a bitter political fallout sparked by the succession battled that Mbeki lost in Polokwane last year.

Of those who turned the knife deeply into Mbeki’s heart during the NEC were businessmen Tokyo Sexwale and Cyril Ramaphosa.

The two, and ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa were accused of plotting against Mbeki.

Another irony is that Mbeki spent most of his post-1990 career trying to liquidate his former party – the SACP, trying to recruit leader Blade Nzimande to his side because Mbeki did not like Chris Hani.

However, it was communists – Nzimande, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and Mantashe – who were the main plotters who dragged Mbeki to the gallows at the weekend. They’d won the ANC at Polokwane.

Mbeki’s ruthless, conspiratorial leadership style, according to one insider, has turned people such as ANC deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise – who is not necessarily a Zuma sympathiser – against him.

Modise, according to the insider, was peeved with being passed over for Cabinet posts while women politically junior to her were appointed ministers in Mbeki’s gender-balanced Cabinet.

Modise accompanied Mantashe to deliver the saddest news of recalling the President before his term expired. The hunted turned hunter, as Mbeki’s confidante Joel Netshitenzhe said last week.

Apart from a few defenders, Mbeki was the most loathed leader by his own party since Alfred Xuma and Dr James Moroka were removed unceremonially in the early 1950s.