AKA Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki
Birthplace: Idutywa, Queenstown, South Africa
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Head of State
Nationality: South Africa
Executive summary: President of South Africa, 1999-2008
Mbeki's father was Govan Mbeki, a bigwig in the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party. Mbeki joined the African National Congress at the age of 14, but when the apartheid government arrested his father, the young Mbeki was whisked out of South Africa. Mbeki's brother disappeared during apartheid, and is presumed dead. His son (from an affair in his teens) was killed trying to flee the country. Mbeki himself lived in exile for 28 years, attending university in Britain, earning a degree in economics.
After graduation, he went to the Soviet Union, where he trained as a guerrilla fighter, and became sort of a worldwide lobbyist against apartheid. ANC sent him to Zambia, Lesotho, and Botswana, among other missions, to organize or consolidate underground operations. After apartheid ended, Mbeki was Nelson Mandela's #1 deputy president (South African presidents have several deputies), and he succeeded Mandela as President of South Africa in June 1999. He was subsequently reelected for a second term in April 2004.
In 1998, Mbeki criticized the Truth and Reconciliation Commission -- the generally-respected body that has researched apartheid-era atrocities -- for concluding that ANC members had carried out widespread torture and killed opponents, not unlike their white oppressors.
AIDS has hit Africa the hardest of any continent. Gugu Dlamini, one of the first South Africans to announce that she was HIV-positive, was promptly stoned to death in 1998. Mandela ignored the AIDS crisis, but Mbeki has been worse. In 1999, he refused to allow distribution of AZT (a drug that inhibits HIV) to pregnant women and other South Africans suffering from AIDS. Instead, he publicly embraced the scientifically dissident position that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. The drug itself, Mbeki claimed, actually causes AIDS, and shortens rather than extends patients' lives. South Africa has finally instituted a comprehensive plan to combat HIV and AIDS, but Mbeki only let the plan proceed as his 2004 re-election campaign got underway.
Mbeki has urged Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to at least meet and talk with that country's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), he opposed Mugabe's suspension from the Commonwealth.
Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Mandela abhors Mbeki. She keeps a photo, almost as a trophy, of the time she tried to kiss him at a political rally, and he shoved her away, knocking her hat off.
Mbeki's parents were both longtime ANC stalwarts, so you'd think they'd be proud of their son, the President. But reunited after decades apart, Mbeki shook his father's hand stiffly, and neither man had anything to say. His father died in 2001, and Mbeki seldom visits his mother. The last time he did, neighbors said she yelled at him long and loud about political matters.
Father: Govan Mbeki (newspaper publisher, communist activist; b. 1910, d. 2001)
Mother: Epainette Mbeki (teacher)
Wife: Zanele Diamini (m. 23-Nov-1974)
High School: St John's High School, Umtata, South Africa
University: Master of Economics, University of Sussex (1966)
President of South Africa (1999-2008)
Deputy President of South Africa (1994-99)
African National Congress
Traveled to the USSR 1969
Traveled to the USSR 1970
Funeral: Ronald Reagan (2004)
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