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Jonathan Ball

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Mark Gevisser’s Thabo Mbeki: Public Discussion and Three Gripping Excerpts

Thabo Mbeki, The Dream DeferredMark Gevisser’s landmark biography of South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki: the Dream Deferred, saw its debut with three gripping excerpts in yesterday’s Sunday Times, the links to which may be found below.

Gevisser’s book is a story of political intrigue; of a revolutionary movement struggling first to defeat and then to seduce a powerful and callous enemy; of the dogged rise of a quiet, clever, diligent but unpopular man who seemed to take little joy in power but to have much need for it.

It is also, as you’ll read below, the story of Jama Mbeki, the president’s assassinated brother; Kwanda Mbeki, his only son, missing for decades; Olive Mpahlwa, Kwanda’s mother; and of scores of further individuals who have shaped the man who has, in effect, ruled South Africa for the full fifteen years of its post-apartheid democracy.

A lecture by Gevisser and a public discussion of his work will take place at the Wits Great Hall on November 12, in association with the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER), Jonathan Ball and Exclusive Books. The author will be introduced by Elinor Sisulu; after his lecture he will respond to questions from a panel including Phumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Ferial Haffajee, Bheki Khumalo, Xolela Mangcu and Deborah Posel. For details, please scroll down.

  • Book excerpt: A leap through time with Thabo Mbeki
    Mark Gevisser explains how he came upon the title, The Dream Deferred, after a six-hour meeting with his subject.

It was Mbeki himself who gave me the word ’disconnected’ to describe his (to all intents and purposes) parentless childhood, and then his itinerant adult life. Now I wondered, after our time together, whether it was not a condition still very much alive in him

It was August 2000, just over a year after Thabo Mbeki became President, and I was sitting with him in a downstairs reception room of Mahlamba Ndlopfu, his official residence in Pretoria.

It was a Saturday and he was dressed casually — slacks, a cardigan buttoned over a polo shirt, a well-gnawed pipe in his mouth. But bloodshot eyes betrayed his exhaustion. He had burst out of Mandela’s shadow and into international recognition, not only as the liberating philosopher king who was beginning to make post- apartheid South Africa work, and as the first African leader since the uhuru generation to have a visionary plan for African development, but also as the putative defender of a loathsome tyrant to the north, and as an “Aids-denialist” crank.

Complete article in the Sunday Times

  • Olive’s Story: ‘God has brought Thabo back, but he has taken Kwanda away’
    Reported by Fred Khumalo.

That’s what Olive Mpahlwa said shortly after Mbeki had been inaugurated as President of the country in 1999.

The mother of the President’s out-of-wedlock — and only acknowledged — son was pouring her heart out about the boy’s disappearance .

In his book on the President, Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred, Mark Gevisser pieces together an agonising puzzle around the disappearance of Kwanda Mbeki in 1981.

Born in 1959, when Thabo Mbeki was writing matric , the boy initially stayed with his maternal grandparents.

Complete article in the Sunday Times

  • Jama’s Story: The Untold Tragedies – A brother sacrificed
    Reported by Fred Khumalo.

In a dramatic revelation, author Mark Gevisser, in his new biography of Thabo Mbeki, relates what happened to Jama, the “disappeared” brother of the President.

Jama Mbeki, the youngest of Govan and Epainette Mbeki’s four children, was a lawyer and an activist in the insurgent Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) when he disappeared in 1981, Gevisser writes in Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred.

Gevisser and a Sunday Times investigative team ascertained that Mbeki was killed by operatives of Chief Leabua Jonathan’s regime — at a time when this regime was allied with the ANC, and the BCP was the ANC’s enemy.

Complete article in the Sunday Times

Event Details

  • Date: Monday, 12 November 2007
  • Time: 5:30 for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Wits Great Hall, East Campus
    Johannesburg | Map
  • RSVP: Najhiba,, 011 717 4234

Book Details