Former South African Leader Talks Politics, World Cup

Thabo Mbeki

Thabo Mbeki was President of South Africa from 1999-2008. During his presidency, he lobbied for South Africa to play host to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption AFP/Getty Images

Former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki recently spoke to NPR's Michel Martin about one of the Africa's greatest concerns, Sudan. Mbeki also talks about the significance of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. During his presidency (from 1999-2008), he lobbied for the games to come to his country during as presidency.

On progress creating peace and stability in Sudan

"Well, you know, that really there's been two major challenges facing Sudan. One of them has been the war in Darfur and the other one is the ... Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended the war between the North and the South.

Fortunately, everybody has respected the Comprehensive Peace Agreement since it was signed in 2005, in terms of forming a government of national unity and in all the various steps out there to be taken. And as you were saying, are then preparing for the referendum which is scheduled for January 10, 2011."

On Southern Sudan being commonly referred to as a "pre-failed state"

"... Since Sudan gained its independence in 1956, well, the bulk of the years since then, Southern Sudan has been involved in war. And therefore the assessment that the infrastructure is very weak is correct. That there are many challenges of underdevelopment is correct. ... But when the matter is raised, which is leadership in Southern Sudan of the possibility of them being a failed state, we actually take great exception to this because they say that indeed when many countries on the African continent gained their independence, the people who led them had no experience of government."

On whether there is still violence in Darfur

"Well, it is true that during the month of May, you had this spike in terms of the violence that's taken place in Darfur. It's the highest in the last two years, two-and-a-half years. Basically there are really two reasons for it. One of them is that there's a very serious conflict between two different Arab tribes in Darfur. ... But also, one of the rebel groups in Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement, which had relocated from Chad into Darfur. They started trying to spread around Darfur to establish a presence around Darfur. And so the Sudan armed forces responded to that to say, no, you can't the rebel movement that was positioning itself in order to resume the war, so they responded and that's what resulted in the killing. The danger is that if this matter of Darfur is not resolved now before the referendum, then Darfur will be forgotten."

On Mbeki's decision to indict Sudan President Omar al-Bashir on war crimes

"When we engaged the population in Darfur, everybody said crimes had been committed in Darfur, and not everybody agrees, including President Bashir. Secondly, that these crimes need to be investigated and prosecuted, and everybody agrees. And, thirdly, that and nobody's above the law, not even President Bashir. So this is agreed by everybody. So, when we then engaged the Darfurians to say, well, then how is this justice to be done since we all agree that justice must be done?

"They said essentially that they do not trust that the Sudanese judiciary is sufficiently independent to be able to adjudicate these cases."

On Zimbabwe's political and economic troubles

"The solutions to the prob of Zimbabwe must come from Zimbabweans. We can't impose solutions from outside without creating new problems. I am quite confident that that government will survive, that they will work together."

On his legacy as President of South Africa

"Once South Africa became a democracy in 1994, that stopped the threat of the possibility of the racial war in South Africa. And, fortunately, that's been sustained every since. ... Also, the progress towards the creation of a non-racial society — much more integration in the schools, in the sports teams. If you look now in the crowds that sit around around in the South African stadium watching all these [World Cup] matches, it's something that you probably would not have seen 10 years ago of blacks and whites sitting next to each other."

More from Thabo Mbeki

On why he lobbied to bring the World Cup to Africa

"We took a decision that it would be important to have the World Cup hosted not only by South Africa, but by Africa ... to make a statement about Africa — [about] Africans on the continent and Africans in the diaspora ... Africans everywhere. We're very much part of this common humanity. How many Europeans have hosted the World Cup? Latin America, Asia has hosted the World Cup. Why not the African continent?"

On the South African team's recent World Cup loss to Uruguay

"We still have one more match rto play in this round, and I'm hoping that we win that match. With fingers crossed, I think the South African team is capable of winning this next match."

Complaints about the sound of the Vuvuzela

"People have to accept that this is a standard feature of South Africa. Personally, I would never take a vuvuzela to a match."

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