Mbeki hurt and angry
Thabo blames Judge Nicholson
FORMER president Thabo Mbeki has broken his silence on his unceremonious dismissal, saying he was hurt and still could not figure out why Judge Chris Nicholson implicated him in plotting against President Jacob Zuma.
Speaking for the first time about circumstances around his controversial sacking from government over a year ago, Mbeki exclusively told the Sunday Tribune how he was angered and hurt by claims made by Nicholson that were later rejected by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Nicholson had implicated Mbeki and his cabinet in a conspiracy to thwart Zuma’s attempts to become president of the ANC and later of the country.
“It made us very angry,” Mbeki said.
Mbeki has maintained a stony silence since his dismissal as president. He has mentioned the political management of the process of his recall in the past in court documents, but never how he personally felt about the sacking.
He told the Sunday Tribune Nicholson’s judgment hurt him. “Why would any judge want to do that? I don’t know – I don’t think he will ever explain himself because judges don’t explain themselves. I mean that was bad”.
Banging a side table, a visibly irritated Mbeki added, “We said it was not sufficient merely to release a press statement (repudiating comments by Nicholson) because this judge must produce the facts that led him to this conclusion. And we couldn’t understand why a judge would sit on a bench and go out of his way to say this.”
Mbeki felt that Nicholson’s judgment “really sought to impugn our integrity,” and presented him and his cabinet as “dishonest people” who “for whatever reason want to intervene in ways that are illegal and unconstitutional,” Mbeki said.
He said he, like his cabinet colleagues, took the oath of office seriously. “For somebody to pop up from somewhere with absolutely no basis… to come to a conclusion that these are bad people, dishonest people, acted in violation of their oath, this and that and the other, and that was bad,” he said.
At the time Nicholson took the decision, Mbeki had just been defeated at the Polokwane ANC conference by Zuma, whose faction in the ANC felt that Zuma was a victim of political machinations. Many rejoiced at Nicholson’s decision and, about four weeks later, the ANC national executive committee took a decision to dismiss Mbeki. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told reporters at a press conference after the decision was taken that the Nicholson judgment played a major role in the discussion that led to the recall.
Mbeki sought not to blame the ANC for having recalled him using a flawed premise, saying: “That was a decision not made by the ANC but by Judge Nicholson and the ANC acted on it. But it’s okay, that’s the past”.
Next week, we publish a full interview with Mbeki on Cope, the campaign ahead of Polokwane, challenges of our time and his retirement.