chapter  9
Two perspectives on Zimbabwe’s National Democratic Revolution: Thabo Mbeki and Wilfred Mhanda
ByThabo Mbeki, Wilfred Mhanda David Moore
Pages 20

In early 2000, shortly before his death the next year, Govan Mbeki once National Chairman of the African National Congress, executive member of the South African

Communist Party, Secretary of Umkhonto we Sizwe, author of the classic Peasant

Revolt in South Africa (1964), and father of the man who was then President of the

Republic of South Africa presented an evening lecture to students of a part-time MA in Politics programme at the then University of Port Elizabeth,1 in the city where

‘OomGov’ resided. One of the students asked the 90-year-old struggle veteran, who

had held the class spellbound with his tales of espionage and analysis of modern

South African history for nearly an hour, what he felt about the progress of South

Africa’s ‘National Democratic Revolution’ (NDR). He replied with ‘the National

Democratic Revolution takes a long time’. Another asked the well-practised

raconteur to reflect upon the disagreements he and Nelson Mandela had

encountered during the days approaching South Africa’s democratic denouement,

when according to folklore the two icons had stopped speaking to each other because

Govan Mbeki espoused a longer struggle in order to bring socialism somewhat closer

to fruition whilst Mandela was happy to see a quicker end to violence and warfare.

Mbeki criticised by some as a ‘Stalinist’ replied that he and the purportedly more liberal Mandela ‘debated’ the fate of their movement with mutual respect and

decorum: they never stopped talking about strategy and tactics, and out of robust

arguments a better movement would evolve. Yet one more student wondered what

‘OomGov’ would do if he were in his elder son’s shoes: he answered that they were

probably too big for the father, but that Thabo Mbeki seemed to fit into his footwear

quite well.