Bio of the week

Thabo Mbeki
 (18 June 1942)
 Former President, Activist

Thabo Mbeki is a South African politician born on June 18, 1942, in Mbewuleni, Idutywa, South Africa. The anti-apartheid supporter rose within the political ranks of the African National Congress. He served two terms as the second president of South Africa after Nelson Mandela. Mbeki's controversial stance that HIV did not cause AIDS is believed to have led to delayed medicines and the deaths of more than 300,000 people in his country.

Early Life

Thabo Mbeki is a South African politician born on June 18, 1942, in Mbewuleni, Idutywa, South Africa. Mbeki was the second child of Govan Mbeki and Ma Mofokeng. In 1953, a fire destroyed Mbeki's kraal and family shop, prompting his father to migrate to Johannesburg in search of work.
As a young teen in 1955 at Lovedale College, Mbeki developed an interest in politics. He joined several student political organizations, including the African National Congress Youth League at age 14.
In 1961 in Johannesburg, Mbeki met Nelson Mandela, who advised him to further his education outside of the country. Mandela believed Mbeki's life was in danger due to his political beliefs and affiliations. Mbeki left for London and enrolled in the University of Sussex, graduating with a master's degree in economics in 1966.
The next year Mbeki started a job with Communist Party leader Yusuf Dadoo at the African National Congress offices in London. In 1969 he moved to Moscow to study at the Institute of Social Science.

Career Success

In the '70s Mbeki rose within the ranks at the ANC. The South African government eyed Mbeki as a political foe, and in 1986 hired an assassin to bomb his house. The planned failed after the assassin was spotted and arrested.
Mbeki developed a different philosophy regarding change in South Africa's political structure. In 1990 he persuaded the ANC to stop the armed struggle against the apartheid regime, believing that negotiations, rather than guns, held the key to freedom. That same year he officially returned to South Africa from exile.
Mbeki's rise to political power continued in 1993, when he was elected chairman of the ANC. He addressed the elimination of apartheid at the United Nations. The next year Mbeki was sworn in by Nelson Mandela as the deputy president of the Republic of South Africa of the New Government of National Unity. Later in the year he was appointed deputy president of the African National Congress.
In 1996 Mbeki fired Winnie Mandela as deputy minister, for subordination and abuse of her position. The next year he spoke at the ANC's 50th National Conference to address possible policy changes due to Nelson Mandela's leave from public office. Mbeki was elected the president of the ANC and of South Africa in 1999, and then won a second term as president of the ANC in 2002.
During his time in office, Mbeki's views on AIDS caused much international controversy. He refuted scientific research, stating that AIDS was not caused by the human immunodeficiency virus. He believed poverty, bad nourishment and general ill health were the causes of AIDS, and that expensive Western medicines would not be the solution. Harvard researchers believe his AIDS stance blocked medicine from reaching those afflicted, resulting in as many as 300,000 deaths in his country.
In South Africa's 2004 elections the ANC won the majority of votes. Mbeki was elected to a second term as president of the country on the same day the country celebrated its 10th anniversary as a democratic entity. In 2007 his bid to win a third term failed when he lost the ANC presidential election to Jacob Zuma, though he retained his position as president of South Africa. However, amid allegations of political interference, in 2008 the ANC asked Mbeki to resign as president of South Africa, and he reluctantly obliged.
Mbeki remains involved in non-elected leadership positions in the African region.

Personal Life

In 1958, at age 16, Mbeki and Olive Mpahlwa had an out-of-wedlock son named Monwabise Kwanda. On November 23, 1974, Mbeki married Zanele Dlamini in London.
In 1981, son Monwabise Kwanda disappeared along with Mbeki's youngest brother, Jama, after allegedly trying to leave South Africa to join Mbeki. They were assumed to have been killed by apartheid agents. Mbeki stated, "I, too, and especially my mother, regret that the TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] process did not succeed to unearth the truth about what happened to our loved ones who disappeared without trace."
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