For the students who started classes at the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute this February, textbooks can only teach so much about subjects like ‘Introduction to Thought Leadership for Africa’s Renewal’.
Their best reference is likely to be the patron of the college himself. During his two terms in office, President Mbeki pursued his vision of an African Renaissance through initiatives like Nepad and the creation of the African Union (in 2002, which replaced the old Organisation of African Unity).
He fostered economic connections with the ‘emerging powerhouse’ of BRIC nations and initiated the India-Brazil-SA Dialogue Forum.
Mbeki was named the 2005 UN Champion of the Earth for passing laws on air quality, biological diversity and waste management.
Since departing from SA politics in 2008, Mbeki has become a respected mediator – he’s been at the table in Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast, among others, and was named African of the Year in 2012 for his role in the peace deal between Sudan and South Sudan.
This year, his was one of three names requested on the panel to guide talks between Malawi and Tanzania in their battle over Lake Niassa.
Mbeki’s infamous, widely criticised stance on the link between poverty and Aids was a blot on his CV; based on his recent record, history will prove more forgiving than his detractors.
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