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Published 17th May 2002

Vol 43 No 10

South Africa

Will the real Thabo Mbeki stand up?

Ahead of a hectic six months of hosting world leaders and trying to wring trade concessions from them, Mbeki changes course

This year's workload for President Thabo Mbeki is overwhelming. He and his colleagues from Africa's big nations must oversee the transformation of the Organisation of African Unity into the African Union in July when it meets in Durban. In June, he will be in Canada, as chief salesman of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NePAD). In August, his government will host, in Johannesburg, the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development (known as 'Rio plus 10', since it is ten years since the first such meeting, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). And in December, he will face the 50th annual conference of his own African National Congress, whose old allies, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the SA Communist Party, will grumble loudly about the government's free-market economic policies. Mbeki is clearing the decks. To the relief of his supporters and the surprise of his detractors, he has changed his stance on HIV/AIDS and Zimbabwe, which had seriously damaged his own and South Africa's standing in the world. The AIDS U-turn is definite: palliative drugs will be made available, at vast cost to the taxpayer, to those who clearly need them. Solidarity with President Robert Mugabe is replaced by pressure for a power-sharing government and constitutional reform. Mbeki is reclaiming some of his former reputation as the polymath in search of rational and radical solutions.

Mbeki's front line

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

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In a year of international negotiations and party elections, Mbeki will need loyal friends

President Thabo Mbeki's rapid rise in the African National Congress after it was legalised in 1990 surprised many outsiders. Yet for years inside the tent, Mbeki built a circle of ...

The fire does not cease

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

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The opposition complains that a US-brokered ceasefire helps the Khartoum government

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Two to tango

The army may step in to prevent the politicians breaking the country apart

Two presidents, two parliaments, two capitals, two economies next, two countries? That seems to be the aim of the veteran Red Admiral, Didier Ratsiraka, who clings to the presidenc...


Politicians are quieter, the banks are friendlier, the security men are restless

The political peace depends, shakily, on the opposition's trust that President Laurent Gbagbo will deliver on his promises. The turning point came in February, with the Yamoussoukr...


Behind the partition

Since 52 days of inter-Congolese talks at Sun City ended last month, a new partition is emerging. Some 70 per cent of the territory is covered by the 'framework agreement' between ...


Explosions in Conakry's main army camp on 5 May were not because of a coup but they show how the army's dominant role is becoming a liability.

Separate & sovereign

The unrecognised Republic of Somaliland proved its durability on 3 May, with the peaceful succession to President Mohamed Ibrahim Egal.

Polling in peace

The 14 May presidential and parliamentary elections were lauded as the most peaceful in four decades but political problems loom.