As South Africa’s political climate goes from fractious to feverish, with protests mounting against the embattled president, Jacob Zuma, a former national leader and titan of the ANC has waded into the fray. Thabo Mbeki, who led South Africa between 1999 and 2008, recently wrote about the possibility of another no confidence motion against Zuma, now being tabled by the opposition. He argued that should such a vote happen, MPs should vote in the national interest rather than obey orders from their party. On one score, this is the latest iteration of Mbeki and Zuma’s bitter, unreconciled feud, which dates back to Zuma’s humiliating defenestration of Mbeki as ANC and state president in 2007-8. But there’s something more purely self-serving going on here too. Mbeki has always viewed himself as an intellectual titan, not simply another calculating politician looking to land the latest blow. His contributions to the national and international conversation supposedly carry a weight and gra...

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