A comparative historical study of the narrative of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. A persistent theme among historical narratives of South African presidential politics was that Mandela is a 'hero,' and that his style embodied an inclusive approach. His former deputy and successor, on the other side, was regarded a little harshly as a 'prince.' The book is concerned with the historical contexts in which these two narratives were centered, and it takes the reader on a journey of what South African history could look like when Mandela, a character of legend, is cast in the role of an introverted ruler, and Mbeki as manifesting the sense of an outsider. Mbeki had a reputation for being 'an opinionated foreigner' in South Africa's politics of avant-gardism and universalism. Mandela & Mbeki: The Hero and the Outsider presents a picture of the period 1912-2008, organized around a number of themes of current interest: the 'invention' of traditions and modern nations, Black Consciousness, the African National Congress, the Pan Africanist Congress, the working class, and the middle class. It is a stimulating account with a great deal of interesting detail, taking the debate about these two protagonists beyond the 'orthodox' platform to which it had been taken in the mid-1990s.
The book demonstrates, on the one hand, that Mandela’s legend amounts to a great deal more than the surge of his charisma, and that his Republicans’ avant-gardism did much to make Mandela the leader he became. On the other hand, the book also demonstrates that Mbeki was a pragmatist and a ‘hyphenate’ leader, both by custom and by principle, and was historically programmed by his exile past into the primordialist he became.
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