Thabo Mbeki and the African Renaissance

Observers have called Mbeki an intellectual, a revolutionary, a communist, a nationalist, an Africanist and a social democrat.10 This plethora of terms reflects the complexity of Thabo Mbeki. Succeeding Nelson Mandel as the president of the Republic of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki’s legacy remains open to history. Nevertheless, Mbeki’s lifetime pursuit of prosperity for South Africa and the African continent is a matter of record.11, 12 Three aspects of the Mbeki’s persona provide a context for the ARS. First, Mbeki’s personal sense of disconnection provides motivation for the ARS. Second, three ideologies influenced Mbeki and underpin the ARS. Third, Mbeki’s controversial response to HIV/AIDS foreshadows African Renaissance ideals in relation to a healthcare crisis. The following exploration provides insight into Mbeki as an African leader committed to the African Renaissance.

Disconnection: Bringing the African Renaissance Together Mbeki used the word “disconnect” to describe his essentially parentless childhood and itinerant adult life.13 “The idea of building an ideology around the African Renaissance came from his personal sense of ‘disconnection’.”14 Mbeki believed that colonialism separated South Africans from their culture and that there was no value system to replace that lost culture. African self-definition and self-determination became Mbeki’s prescription for overcoming his disconnection and South Africa’s disconnection. Mbeki would later generalize this prescription to the continent.15

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