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Mandela’s death raises leadership questions: Mbeki

Former president Thabo Mbeki on Sunday challenged South Africa’s leadership to ask if they are living up to Nelson Mandela’s standards, in a pointed public challenge to his ANC comrades.

Mbeki — who succeed Mandela as president in 1999 and was ultimately ousted by Jacob Zuma in a party coup — questioned whether current leaders were living up to Mandela’s values.

“I think to celebrate his life properly we need to ask ourselves a question about the quality of leadership,” Mbeki told a prayer gathering at the Oxford Shul synagogue in Johannesburg.

“To say: ‘to what extent are we measuring up to the standard they (Nelson Mandela and his generation) set in terms of the quality of leadership?'”

The leadership of the ruling African National Congress, previously headed by Mandela and Mbeki, has come under increasing fire over claims of nepotism and corruption.

The ANC under Zuma is preparing for national elections next year even as he faces accusations of using $20 million worth of taxpayer money on upgrading his private residence.

Mbeki said the remaining task of transforming South Africa into a truly free, fair and equal society was “in many respects more difficult than the struggle to end the system of apartheid”.

“Surely that must mean that therefore this challenge of leadership becomes much more important, much more complex in the context of what needs to be done,” he added.

Mbeki, president until he was “recalled” by the ANC and Zuma took over in 2008, said South Africans must examine their loyalty to the values that Nelson Mandela and his generation had espoused.

“Are we in whatever echelon of our society, whatever we are doing in politics, in business, in unions, in civil society… do we have the quality of leadership such as was exemplified by Mandela and others, sufficient to respond to the challenges we face?” he said.

“As we celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela this becomes a central task, that we reflect on what needs to be done to sustain his legacy, to ensure that we do not betray what he and others sacrificed for, what he and others stood for.”

Political analyst Adam Habib said he would “not be surprised” if the reference was to Zuma and the current ANC leadership.

“There are a lot of questions being asked in the ANC about the quality of leadership, not only about Jacob Zuma but across the board.

“If you’re serious about development, if you are truly serious about achieving the kinds of ends and the kinds of goals that Madiba had, leadership is going to be absolutely fundamental.”