Ideology: Binding the African Renaissance Together
In 1962, Mbeki began his life of exile in England. Liberal democracy influenced Mbeki’s thinking while he studied economics at Sussex University. During this time, Mbeki incorporated the pan-African perspectives concerning African self-definition and self-determination into his worldview.16 Beginning in 1969, Mbeki studied for almost two years at the Lenin Institute in Moscow. There Mbeki received Marxist-Leninist ideological training and guerilla warfare training.17 Liberal democracy, pan-Africanism and communism formed a powerful ideological tapestry from which Mbeki’s African Renaissance emerged. Eventually, liberal democracy and communism became subservient to the Pan-African principles of selfdefinition and self-determination.18 Mbeki’s application of these principles in response to HIV/AIDS resulted in harsh criticism.
HIV/AIDS: Testing the African Renaissance
Questioning the “paradigm of AIDS” became the most significant threat to Mbeki’s legacy.19
In mid-2000, he had come to believe that the AIDS epidemic was the latest racist weapon in the arsenal of the Afropessimists, and was being exploited by ‘Big Pharma’ ... as it dumped expensive products on unsuspecting Africans, while the real causes ofAIDS were Africa’s ongoing poverty and underdevelopment?0
Mbeki insisted that Africans should create African solutions to African problems—including AIDS.21 The Mbeki government, for a time, withheld antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and promoted natural treatments.22 Driven by African Renaissance ideals,
questioning AIDS was thus nothing more than a continuation of the quest to which Mbeki had dedicated his whole life: that of self-determination and selfdefinition: “Critical to the success of the historic African transformation project is our courage to stand up for what we think and feel is correct.”20
Nevertheless, researchers concluded that from 2000 to 2005 over 330,000 persons died because South Africa lacked an effective ARV drugs distribution programme.24 Here we observe in Mbeki a skepticism leading to a crisis response that contributed to a tragic outcome—a pattern that will re-emerge.
Three Guiding Questions
From this exploration of Thabo Mbeki’s persona, three questions emerge to inform the subsequent analysis.
- 1. Are indications of sociocultural connection or disconnection present in the African leadership response to the Ebola crisis?
- 2. Does the tension between ideologies and integrations of ideologies influence the African leadership response to the Ebola crisis?
- 3. What evidence is there that the African Renaissance ideals of selfdefinition and self-determination influenced the African leadership response to the Ebola crisis?
In addition to informing the ARS analysis, these questions guide the search for how Africans lead in a time of crisis.