Let hostilities begin – Top Senior ANC Official blasts Mbeki on Zimbabwe, HIV and Aids

JOHANNESBURG – "There can be no doubt that Thabo Mbeki played a substantial role in establishing the post-1994 South African state as we know it today. A lot of it came from his own initiative, knowledge and design, and some if it will remain for decades."

This is according to ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, who took part in a debate about former president Mbeki’s legacy held at the Atlas Studios in Milpark, Joburg, on Tuesday night.

The event was organised by The Star following the ruling party’s decision to recall Mbeki as president last month.

The ANC cited the implications of the judgment by Judge Chris Nicholson in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on September 12, by which the indictment against ANC president Jacob Zuma, on charges of fraud and corruption, was set aside due to procedural irregularities.

Judge Nicholson alluded to Mbeki’s interference with the prosecution in charging Zuma.

Phosa last night maintained the ANC’s conciliatory tone about Mbeki’s successes as president.

"There can also be little doubt that Mbeki’s efforts, on the back of Nelson Mandela’s massive international stature, allowed South Africa to punch above its weight on the global stage in institutions such as the United Nations."

However, Phosa took a swipe at Mbeki for his handling of the HIV/Aids pandemic and Zimbabwe – areas where the former president has most been criticised.

"Under his guidance, however, the government wasted precious time in addressing the critical challenge of HIV/Aids. While over-engaging in protracted intellectualism, many people suffered without much-needed medical help in our cities, towns and villages."

The new president, Kgalema Motlanthe, has since Mbeki’s removal from office appointed a new health minister, Barbara Hogan, who has so far come across as the direct opposite of her predecessor, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

Zimbabwe, a country on the brink of collapse after the ruling Zanu-PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change have reached a stalemate in forming a government, also got special mention.

"It is also on his (Mbeki’s) beat that we chose to tread softly rather than act decisively on the plight of our neighbours. It is now very late in the day, and a country such as Zimbabwe is almost devastated. That is a mistake we cannot afford to repeat," Phosa said.

Mbeki is in Zimbabwe to broker a deal between Zanu-PF and the MDC as President Robert Mugabe has sworn in two vice-presidents – an apparent violation of the agreement Mbeki has been hailed for by the international community.

Phosa’s conclusion was a reaffirmation of why the tripartite alliance has always wanted Mbeki out of office.

"One fact stands above question: in a young, fragile democracy such as ours, an isolated, imperial and unresponsive Presidency won’t do. We need our leaders much closer to the people if we are to achieve a better life for all." – The Independent Online