Govan Mbeki (Ohio Short Histories of Africa)

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Short Histories of Africa - Combined Academic Publishers

Adekeye Adebajo fleetingly compares former South African President Thabo Mbeki's life and legacy with that of former Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah, noting the outsized role each played in their country's move toward postcolonial independence and development but each failed "to deliver the economic kingdom in the end [which] led to the political crucifixion of both prophets" Tanzania's Julius Nyerere can also be counted among such prophets, as his nation's independence held such promise but his economic policies had similarly disastrous outcomes.

It is clear that Adebajo admires Mbeki and wishes his story was one of complete success, frequently describing him as "the most important political figure of his generation" both in South Africa and across the continent.

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Adebajo emphasizes Mbeki's personal integrity and "total" commitment to end Apartheid through an entire life of service to that cause, but admits that Mbeki's contentious yet technocratic manner, as well as decades spent in exile and his Western-influenced intellectual perspectives and polish, alienated him from his own people.

Mbeki tried to enhance independent Africa's self-image through an African Renaissance that would unite South Africa and the entire continent, making him a more effective continental leader than a national one. His legacy is likely to be marked more by his Pan-African achievements in developing regional communities, particularly the Southern African Development Community, the Organization of African States and its successor, the African Union. Paul Bjerk stresses that Nyerere's commitment was to a nonviolent, inclusive transition to independence, which resulted in a statist economy engendering widespread corruption.

Bjerk describes Nyerere's talent for appealing to his mainly rural constituency in a multinational country with earthy, universal themes. Nyerere expanded the concept of "family unity" or Ujamaa to indicate a Tanzanian and more broadly African identity embracing a unified diversity with a socialist but classless core, which included use of Swahili as a national indigenous, noncolonial language.

New Books | Ohio Short Histories of Africa: Albert Luthuli : New Frame

This philosophy also enabled Nyerere to enact autocratic policies through one-party rule without fear of dissent and evading Cold War power plays in the context of a national ethic preserving its interests. The approach also managed to unite not only those in the territory of Tanganiyka, but to incorporate the islands of Zanzibar into the United Republic of Tanzania. Learning from Robben Island: the prison writings of Govan Mbeki. London: J. Philip, Penguin African Library.

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Braamfontein: Nolwazi, A man of towering intelligence, integrity, warmth, and wit, he brought to the South African liberation struggle a deep understanding of the connections between theory and practice. I had the enormous privilege of spending some time with Oom Gov in the last years of his life. In paying tribute to him I would like to draw on some of the reflections he shared with me, as well the direct testimony of others whose lives he influenced.

Govan Mbeki

First of all, this was the height of activity around the Freedom Charter. Oom Gov not only conceived of the importance of consulting with ordinary people about their vision for a good society. He was also very actively involved in practical politics.

We would go to the mines in Dannhauser and take demands from people. Often we first had to come to an agreement with the ndunas. Other older residents of Ladysmith describe how Oom Gov would hold regular meetings in the afternoons in Umbulwane, an area just outside Ladysmith.

At the time Oom Gov was teaching in the high school in Steadville, the township outside Ladysmith. He established a dancing school in the afternoons, and used this as cover to escape the scrutiny of the Special Branch while he did his political organizing.

8th Annual Thabo Mbeki Africa Day Lecture, 26 May 2017

He took me to Dundee.

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