Exactly two months, twelve days and six hours after my entry this restless earth, Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki was born on Thursday June 18, 1942 at 4.35 am screaming as if he did not wish to come into this world. Perhaps the trait of someone who would turn out to be a complete gentleman or what the Yoruba call “Omoluwabi”. As he grew up and matured, the impression was created that h ere was someone in whose mouth butter would not melt. Unwilling and unable to hurt a fly, Thabo quietly developed a dexterity that was to see him evolve as a consummate negotiator even in the most difficult circumstances.
Behind a deceptive look of docility was hiding a man of steel, an iron will and dogged determination to achieve a common goal. Always with an eye for history, I recall his deft move in persuading Madiba to allow a South African delegation to visit Aso Rock in November 1995 against the high tension caused by the hanging of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight others. Their mission, which I facilitated, was to seek the immediate release of Olusegun Obasanjo and MKO Abiola whose execution, Madiba feared, the world might wake up one day to be told had been carried out. An assurance was given that such was not going to happen and consequently the high tension began to go down between the two countries whose joint contribution to the upliftment of Africa Thabo, as Deputy President of South Africa in 1994, had looked forward to in his one on one conversation with me in Gaborone, Botswana during his first official visit to that country as Deputy President.
In honouring Thabo Mbeki, the Awolowo Foundation has joined numerous others in recognizing the presence among us of a cerebral politician whose discernment is described as solomonic but who unlike Solomon , does not have 600wives!!!
Thabo, I wish you well
Lead City University,