After being booed in KwaZulu-Natal in 2006 following political tensions with his then fired deputy, Jacob Zuma, the province is warming up to former president, Thabo Mbeki.  In less than six months, he has been invited twice by the African National Congress (ANC) in the province.

After losing the ANC presidency to his deputy, Jacob Zuma in 2007, Mbeki was later ousted as the country’s president in 2008. He was then accused of leading a political conspiracy to charge Zuma for corruption in the arms deal.

These ANC internal politics played themselves out in 2006 at the re-burial of the ANC struggle hero, Moses Mabhida in Pietermaritzburg.

Thousands of party members booed Mbeki and walked out during his speech. Others burnt placards and t-shirts bearing Mbeki’s face.

However, Zuma tried hard and without success to calm them down. Feeling side-lined, it took Mbeki almost a decade to start actively engaging in ANC politics.

Only ahead of the 2019 elections, he handed President Cyril Ramaphosa a huge public relations boost by throwing his weight behind his presidency. He explained why he feels he can now tell voters to back the ANC.

”The fact that we admitted we veered off course and resulting in corruption it means we are making a commitment to deal with those matters.”

He was scathing on the Zuma administration saying there was no good story to tell.

”You will recall that for many years we have had a different approach to this issue, which was people saying we’ve got a good story to tell as they were busy veering off course they would say ‘we’ve got a good story to tell’. There was a period when I could not personally, in all honesty, come and say to a person – David please vote for the ANC knowing very well the wrong things that were happening.”

Mbeki is now more than ever welcomed back in the province previously hostile to him. He addressed the Mugabe Memorial Lecture in September last year and he was back in the province at the weekend for the ANC Political School reflecting on what is happening in both the governing party and government.

”I am hoping to see that the government will pay all necessary attention to the details about all these matters because they are very serious challenges,  in terms of Eskom, I don’t know what government is going to do with this very huge debt that Eskom has, it has got to be addressed. The matter about SAA I think we should wait and see what this Business Rescue Team will say in terms of what it proposes.”

Mbeki delivers the Mugabe Memorial Lecture: 

Political Analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga says Mbeki’s return is good news for the ANC.

”It actually means they have access to one of the brains within the party, one of the greatest thinkers within the party. I don’t know whether this comes out of his realisation that his party needs him but it’s very interesting for him to be in KwaZulu-Natal. I hope and wish that as part of his political education, the bigger part of the syllabus is also about political unity perhaps this is the best place to start.”

As Thabo Mbeki is now fully back in the ANC, there is hope this could heal divisions of the past and bring back the much-needed unity in the party torn along factional lines.