A book of essays on former president Thabo Mbeki (1999-2008) entitled Building Blocks Towards an African Century was published recently. Edited by former University of SA vice-chancellor Barney Pityana, the volume’s 12 substantive chapters cover a broad spectrum of politics, economics and global perspectives, with Africa as the thread weaving them together, reflecting Mbeki’s world view. Chapters have been contributed by five leading African intellectuals. Pityana’s comprehensive introduction acknowledges Mbeki’s pivotal role in creating SA’s post-apartheid state. Due to a long personal relationship with his subject spanning nearly five decades, Pityana’s chapter is sympathetic without being hagiographic.As a member of the ANC Youth League and Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness (BC) movement, Pityana served as a bridge between the two. He highlights Mbeki’s nuanced understanding of two important strands of SA’s liberation struggle, in which he reached out to BC activists. Pityana ackn...

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