It has been his life, as it was the life of his father, Govan, and indeed the guiding light for millions of South Africans.
Even when he was ousted as president of the ANC and then as president of the country following Jacob Zuma’s party political coup at Polokwane in 2008, Mbeki maintained the decorum of a disciplined cadre.
Even when he was deliberately made to look like a lame duck president by Zuma and his henchmen, he said little. And when, as expected, he was recalled by the organisation from the post of state president, he again said little.
He has since, by and large, kept his peace. However, an indication of his feelings about Zuma – and about what Zuma and his cronies were doing to the party and to SA as a whole – was the fact that he virtually withdrew from ANC politics and processes.
That all changed with the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC president in December. Although Mbeki has clearly had issues with Ramaphosa over the years, he clearly recognises Ramaphosa’s commitment to ANC house-cleaning and, specifically, the dismantling of the state capture project of Zuma, the Gupta family and assorted hangers-on.
Mbeki is, once again, an ex-officio member of the ANC’s national executive committee and is clearly being tapped by Ramaphosa and others for his wisdom and experience. While Mbeki had a chequered record as state president – and we should never forget his resistance to introducing antiretroviral drugs – the reality is that South Africa was better, in many respects, than it is now.
Mbeki has also never been tainted by accusations of corruption in the way Zuma has. We need more wise men like Mbeki.