Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred

R.W. Johnson writes:

It is, however, Mark Gevisser’s vast biography of Mbeki (reduced, apparently, from a manuscript twice the size) that bears the heaviest teeth-marks of ANC piety. The book undoubtedly contains an enormous amount of useful information about the modern history of the ANC, but it was begun when Mbeki was the prince of power, the golden boy who could do no wrong. As Gevisser toiled on, Mbeki became ever more powerful and more feared, and public criticism of him became an increasingly dangerous sport. Yet at the same time his re-racialisation of South African life, his support for Mugabe, his Aids-denialism and his perfidious behaviour inside the ANC made him more and more hated and despised or, if you wanted to stay on the right side of safe, ‘controversial’. Gevisser’s way of dealing with this is to devote more than 80 per cent of his huge book to Mbeki’s life before 1994 and less than 15 per cent to his time as president.

(LRB 20 November 2008)

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