Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Mbeki — world’s worst President?

John Carlin, writing in the Guardian Unlimited, asks “Is Mandela’s heir one of the world’s worst presidents?” and after praising Mandela goes on to say:

Pity, then, about his successor, Thabo Mbeki, who chose the month when Mandela is immortalised in bronze to remind us of just how far short he falls of the best his country has to offer; how strong a candidate he is to rank, with his friend Robert Mugabe, among the worst Presidents in the world.

That’s really something, in a world in which George Bush and Robert Mugabe are still going strong. Of course Tony Blair was a Prime Minister, not a president, though his style seemed to have a lot in common with P.W. Botha’s imperial presidency. Tony Blair participated enthusiastically in not one, not two, but three wars of aggression, and Carlin has the unmitigated gall to ask if Thabo Mbeki is the worst president in the world?

But since Blair has retired, he’s out of the running. Bush and Mugabe are running neck and neck for first place in the race for the title “Worst president in the world”, so let’s leave them out of it.

I look around the world at presidents and prime ministers in various countries, and ask myself, “Would I rather have X as our president than Thabo Mbeki?” And in most cases, my answer is “No”. For all his faults, Thabo Mbeki is much better than many of the heads of government of other countries.

Who would I rather have?

Gordon Brown? John Howard? Vladimir Putin? Hugo Chavez? Nouri al-Maliki? Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir? Kostas Karamanlis? Angela Merkel? Levy Mwanawasa? Joseph Kabila? Romano Prodi? Guillaume Soro? Alexander Lukashenko? Ali Khamenei? Pervez Musharraf? Ehud Olmert?

I don’t think so!

Does Carlin seriously suggest that Mbeki is worse than all of those?

Mbeki has many faults, most notably his “see no evil” approach to Zimbabwe and his vacillating Aids policy, but he hasn’t yet started any wars of aggression, like Bush, or tried to suppress the opposition by force, like Mugabe.

But I’ve noticed this morning that Sky News is also trying to do a hatchet job on Mbeki, implying that he is urging people to put their faith in quack remedies rather than antiretroviral drugs. What I find interesting is that they don’t provide any evidence of their allegations — if they had a sound bite or a video clip of Thabo Mbeki saying this, it might be more convincing than the unsupported assertions that they have been making.

So I wonder — why do the Brit media suddenly have it in for Thabo Mbeki?

Thanks to Leo Africanus for the tip, though unfortunately he has disabled “Link to this post”.

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2 thoughts on “Mbeki — world’s worst President?

  1. Reggie on said:

    Thabo (the prez) is certainly not an angel, but I think there’s no point in alarmist generalizations ( as I think you point out). Unless we are able to deal intelligibly with his ideologies- he might as well ignore us. I think this stream of British media has it in for Mugabe and everyone that has any smack of support for Mugabe will feel the heat. Whether it helps our (SADC) cause to boot out Mad Bob is another matter

  2. Steve Hayes on said:


    Some African leaders are very quick indeed to criticise Gordon Brown for not being willing at attend a meeting where Mugabe is present, but are very slow to criticise Mugabe’s government for its gross human rights abuses.

    Of course I don’t think we should be like the Brits and march in to Zim to topple Mad Bob as they went into Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein. And when one looks at the mess the Brits and Americans have made opf Iraq, they should sort out their own mess before they criticise Mugabe. That is why Bush and Blair are as bad as Mugabe (Brown is new, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, even though he was in the Brit cabinet during the bombings of three countries).

    Thabo may not be up to Mandela’s standard (Carlin’s complaint), but South Africa has been a much better place under him than it was under Botha, Vorster, Verwoerd or Strijdom.

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