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Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa


Thabo Mbeki was born in Idutywa, Eastern Cape, South Africa, on 18 June 1942. Both his parents were teachers and activists. Mr. Mbeki joined the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League at 14 and quickly became active in student politics. He then moved to Johannesburg where he came under the guidance of Walter Sisulu and Duma Nokwe.

Mr. Mbeki left South Africa in 1962 under orders from the ANC. From Tanzania, he moved to Britain where he completed his Masters degree in economics. He remained active in student politics and played a prominent role in building the youth and student sections of the ANC in exile.

After his studies, he worked at the ANC's London office with the late Oliver Tambo before heading to the Soviet Union in 1970 for military training. Appointed to the ANC National Executive Committee in 1975, he served as ANC representative to Nigeria. He moved to Lusaka in 1978 to become Political Secretary in the office of Oliver Tambo and then Director of Information. From this position, he played a major role in turning the international media against apartheid.

During the 1980s, Thabo Mbeki coordinated numerous diplomatic campaigns aimed at involving more white South Africans in anti-apartheid activities. In the late 1980s, he played a leading role in discussions with the ruling National Party that resulted in the unbanning of the ANC and the release of political prisoners.

He was appointed Executive Deputy President in 1994, following the ANC's victory in the first-ever democratic elections in South Africa. In June 1999, he succeeded Nelson Mandela as the President of the Republic of South Africa. As well as a respected political leader President Mbeki is seen as an independent and original thinker. He is particularly known for his efforts to re-establish a constructive role for Africa in the world. He has called for an African Renaissance and played a leading role in the New African Initiative, a strategy to reduce poverty and place Africa on a path of sustainable growth and development.

President Mbeki married Zanele Dlamini in 1974.