Book Review - The Thabo Mbeki I Know

Edited by Sifiso Mxolisi Ndlovu and Miranda Strydom (Pan Macmillan South Africa) ISBN: 9781770103412 


The Thabo Mbeki I Know is a book of 46 recollections, and two forewords, celebrating the life of President Thabo Mbeki, one of South Africa’s, and indeed Africa’s, most exceptional thought leaders. The contributors are friends, comrades, statesmen, politicians and business associates who knew him as a young man, in South Africa and in exile, and those who met him as a statesman and worked with him as an African leader. 

The book is not a whitewash nor an attempt to rewrite history in any way. You also don’t have to like Thabo Mbeki to read it and enjoy it. 

What I love most about this book is that it is a history within a history. Everybody should read it to see what this world was like through the eyes of 48 remarkable people who each have their own stories to tell. It is like travelling through time to places I’ve only heard about. Places that now have texture and substance and intimacy. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Smuts Ngonyama’s contribution as well as that of Mavuso Msimang. The Thabo Mbeki I Know provides us with an opportunity to look not only at Thabo Mbeki’s story, but at the story of the ANC, in exile and at home, as revolutionaries and as a governing party. In its own way, it is a history of the current South African government and how it ended up in its current messy state.

The photographs are a wonderful bonus, showing the man, Thabo Mbeki, as a nuanced, complex, and completely human being.

Watch the launch of the book here

Amanda Patterson
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