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A Man of Courage

Sep 24, 2008, 8:36 AM

Thabo Mbeki has stepped down as president of the Republic of South Africa. Kgalema Mothanthe, deputy leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), has replaced him. Mr Mbeki's forced resignation came in the wake of a high court's ruling that dismissed corruption charges against Mr Jacob Zuma and then implied that there was political interference in the case. With forced resignation of Mr Mbeki, Zuma and his clique in the ANC have got what they had been scheming for all this while. Being the ANC leader and presidential candidate, Mr Zuma is certain to win the next presidential election slated for next year.

We are glad to see that Mr Mbeki did not behave as the stereotypical African president - clinging to power by any means possible. By contrast, his political rival Mr Zuma seems to be the archetypal African president or presidential hopeful - 'I either win or the country and people get destroyed'. By bowing out when the ovation is loudest, Mr Mbeki has shown that his hands are clean and that he has nothing to hide.

For the almost one decade that Mbeki steered the affairs of state, he brought sagacity and intellectual depth to governance. It could be that his actions and programmes made it difficult for some to feed fat on state resources at the detriment of the people, hence they threaten fire and brimstone. He will be remembered as a great statesman who meant well for his country and his people and did his best to be true to the values and aspirations of his country.

Unlike Mbeki, Zuma strikes us as a desperate man who wants power just for the fun of it. If Mbeki had been greed for power as Zuma, South Africa would have one the way of Sierra Leone, Liberia, DR Congo, and Kenya. But because he believes that good will eventually triumph over evil, Mbeki decided to quit. He believes that senseless ambition and rapacity should not undo the democratic values and economic prosperity that his forbears laboured and died for. When the history of post-apartheid South Africa will be written, he will be considered as a leader who subordinated his personal interest to that of the nation. And that is the hallmark of a true leader.

We agree with Helen Zille, leader of main opposition the Democratic Alliance, that Zuma is a leader of "a rabble out to grab the spoils of the state for their own interests".

Despite what has happened, Mbeki remains an African leader to be proud of. He has shown that an African leader can be reasonable and unselfish.

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