Thabo Mbeki

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President Thabo Mbeki

Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki (born June 18, 1942) is the President of the Republic of South Africa.

Born in the Transkei region of South Africa, Mbeki is the son of Govan Mbeki (1910 - 2001), a stalwart of the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party. Mbeki has a Master of Economics degree from the University of Sussex. Facing arrest and imprisonment in apartheid South Africa, he spent many years in exile in the United Kingdom, only returning to his homeland after the release of Nelson Mandela.

Mbeki joined the African National Congress at the age of 14, representing it abroad from 1967. He was appointed head of the ANC's information department in 1984 and of its international department in 1989. He became a deputy president of South Africa in May 1994 on the attainment of universal suffrage, and sole deputy-president in June 1996. He succeeded Nelson Mandela as ANC president in December 1997 and as president of the Republic in June 1999 (inaugurated on June 16); he was subsequently reelected for a second term in April 2004.

Mbeki is noted for heading the formation of both NEPAD and the African Union and has played influential roles in brokering peace deals in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has also tried to popularise the concept of an African Renaissance.

Mbeki has been attempting to restore dialogue between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the opposition MDC in the face of denials from both parties. He has faced heavy criticism for his policy of 'quiet diplomacy' and opposing Mugabe's recent suspension from the Commonwealth. A fact-finding mission in 2004 by COSATU to Zimbabwe lead to their widely-publicised deportation back to South Africa – this has subsequently reopened the debate, even within the ANC, as to whether Mbeki's policy of 'quiet diplomacy' is being constructive.



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Thabo Mbeki with George W. Bush

Mbeki's views on the causes and treatment of AIDS have also been subject to criticism, most notably his defence (April 2000) of a small group of dissident scientists who claim that HIV is not the cause of the disease (See AIDS reappraisal). Though applauded by AIDS activists for its successful legal defence (April 2001) of cheaper locally-produced AIDS drugs against action brought by transnational pharmaceutical companies, his government has been accused of failing to respond adequately to the epidemic, which is now believed to affect one in five of South Africa's population - one of the highest infection rates in the world.

South Africa now has a more comprehensive, orthodox, plan to combat the effects of HIV and AIDS. Its health plan is determined by Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who has served as health minister since December 2000.


In 2004 the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, criticized President Mbeki for surrounding himself by "yes-men" and not doing enough to improve the position of the poor. Mbeki responded in scathing language calling Desmond Tutu an "icon of the white people" and a "media creation".

See also

External links

Preceded by:
Nelson Mandela
President of South Africa
Succeeded by:
Current incumbent
Preceded by:
F.W. de Klerk
Deputy President of South Africa
Succeeded by:
Jacob Zuma

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