oa African Yearbook of Rhetoric - Former President Thabo Mbeki and the racism debate in South Africa : through the rhetorical lens

Volume 7 Number 1
  • ISSN : 2220-2188
  • E-ISSN: 2305-7785



Thabo Mbeki was elected President of the African National Congress (ANC) on 18 December 1997 at the ANC’s 50th Congress, and that of South Africa on 14 June 1999. In both these capacities, Mbeki’s predecessor was Nelson Mandela –someone on whom a “saintly status had been conferred. While Mandela’s presidency was predicated on nation-building and reconciliation, Mbeki’s was, in large measure, underpinned by South Africa’s socio-economic transformation. He believed that the greatest threat to attaining this goal was racism. Mbeki was therefore of the view that it had to be extirpated. As the country’s President, he had to be at the forefront of this struggle.Racism then became a common thread that ran through Mbeki’s speeches. He seemed to have grasped that –as Mamdani aptly puts it –“[i]f the country needed reconciliation, it also needed social justice”.

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