Since stepping down as South African president in September -- after losing a power struggle within the ruling party --Thabo Mbeki has remained relatively quiet. Until now.
In a letter published Friday, Mr. Mbeki revealed some of his feelings about rival and ruling (ANC) party leader Jacob Zuma, the African National Congress, and the formation of a new breakaway political party. VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the Mbeki letter.
"It's a letter that he wrote after the ANC made certain statements that he would be campaigning. They would be expecting him to campaign for the ANC in the 2009 election. And so, one of his main points is that they made these statements without consulting him. And after Mr. Zuma sent a delegation – didn't go himself but sent a delegation – to tell him that the party had lost confidence in him. Also, he said he has not in any way been consulted or given his approval for the national convention that's been convened by former leading ANC political lights. And that he objects to being made a cult personality around that," she says.
Some of those forming the breakaway party are Mbeki supporters, upset with his resignation and the current leadership of the ANC. Mbeki, himself, however, had been quiet about his forced resignation and the latest political developments.
"I think that we wouldn't have heard from him with respect to this if he hadn't felt that despite being a good (party) soldier that he was continuing to be abused in a certain sense by the ANC and also if the ANC itself had not chosen to make public certain parts of this letter that seemed to benefit them," she says.
Regarding Jacob Zuma, Robertson says, "Although he (Mbeki) in the letter says that he and Mr. Zuma are good friends and have the same views on a lot of things, including what he calls a cult of personality, he says that people in the ANC have never built cults of personality around anybody with the one exception being Nelson Mandela and that there was a particular reason for that – the political situation in South Africa at the time. And it wasn't of Mr. Mandela's making. But he then goes on to say that he finds it objectionable that people in the ANC are making statements that they would be willing to 'kill to see Zuma become president.' He says these are gatherings or support around the personality of Jacob Zuma."Mbeki is not expected to campaign either for the ANC or the breakaway party being formed. However, could Mbeki show up at the new party's convention? Robertson says, "It's been billed as a convention about issues of democracy and relating to whether or not a party should be formed. But he also went on to say that he's speedily making arrangements about his own future. Clearly, he made it very plain…that he has no intention of being involved in politics within South Africa."