Thabo Mbeki Says Goodbye

Reihan is saddened by that state of affairs in South Africa:

As Nelson Mandela's deputy, Mbeki played a central role in shaping post-apartheid South Africa. Once regarded as a man of rare promise, he has been a failure, not least by the lofty standards he set for himself.

Things could be worse in South Africa, as evidenced by the chaos and misery that prevails in neighboring Zimbabwe. But South Africa was once a model of racial reconciliation, a political miracle more remarkable in some respects than the collapse of the Soviet dictatorship. And under Mbeki, South Africa was supposed to spark an African renaissance. Instead, South Africa has grown increasingly violent and poverty-scarred, and even its vaunted tolerance is at risk. From his know-nothing crusade against the scientific consensus on AIDS, which was likely responsible for thousands of deaths, to his embrace of thuggish kleptocrats, Mbeki has endangered all that generations of ANC freedom fighters achieved. Having abandoned Marxist-Leninist economics, Mbeki also abandoned the ANC's anti-racism, choosing instead to embrace a cynical racial populism to mask the unpopularity of neoliberal reforms. It was a clever political gambit, but one that threatens to poison South African democracy.