WHAT to make of former president Thabo Mbeki’s recent speech at the late ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte’s memorial service in Johannesburg, has to a great degree caused some to scratch their heads in bafflement.
What is also interesting is that Mbeki chose such a sensitive event of a high ranking ANC leader of Duarte’s stature, to launch a blatant attack on a sitting president Cyril Ramaphosa who is also leader of his party, the ANC.
Up until this stage it appeared that Mbeki was an ally of Ramaphosa. Some including Mbeki may argue that the support is still there.
And Mbeki utterances were infact ‘warning’ more than they were ‘attacks’.
Needless to say, it raises another question of; had Duarte’s memorial service not occurred, would Mbeki had seen the need to speak his mind on the state of Ramaphosa’s leadership qualities, or even the lack thereof.
It is difficult to say.
Even more profoundly, was Mbeki waiting for such an event, where he could be sure that the ‘Who’s Who’ in the ANC will be present and the media spotlight having gone on an all out attack, just in case there was scandal or scene that could break out at the memorial service.
Either way, it is interesting if not troubling for Mbeki to have waited for a memorial service to air his strong views on the matter which Mbeki has described as ‘do or die’ for South Africa’s 28 year old democracy.
“One of my fears is that one of these days, we’re going to have our own version of the Arab Spring,” Mbeki said.
From this, it would be hard to accuse Mbeki of a total assault on Ramaphosa’s presidency.
But from when he criticised Ramaphosa for not fulfilling a promise to present a social compact to South Africans within 100 days, although this was the truth, was the memorial service the tight platform for this comment.
Ramaphosa made the promise during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in February this year and Thabo Mbeki has since said his speech has been taken out of context.
And Mbeki was widely criticized for saying Ramaphosa failed to deliver on a social compact within 100 days, as promised in his State of the Nation address in February 2022.
But what can be read from all these developments is that Mbeki could be plotting a political comeback to return to the presidency.
Or even worse for Ramaphosa, Mbeki could have indicated that he is shifting sides and ready to join forces with his friend and comrade from exile in the mold of Jacob Zuma.
But here’s the thing, Mbeki chose to stay clear of the Phala Phala farm saga or ‘Farmgate’ as it is now called by others. WHY?
It could be argued that it would be inappropriate for a former president to comment on allegations that have yet to be tested in court.
But under the ANC’s ‘step aside’ policy, you would think that the least Mbeki could have done was to ask Ramaphosa to practise what he preaches, just like what to the ANC’s SG Ace Magashule.
But nothing from Mbeki on this front. It makes one wonder if Mbeki’s speech at Duarte’s memorial service was engineered by Ramaphosa and Mbeki to divert public attention from ‘Farmgate’.
This would certainly buy Ramaphosa sometime to cook up another ‘Public Relation; stunt to get the public paying attention to other ‘critical emergencies’ like a ‘looming’ ‘Arab Spring’ in South Africa.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, the wise have claimed.