Book Review: Ebrahim Harvey’s Kgalema Motlanthe

Ebrahim Harvey’s book on deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, should have been named: Kgalema Motlanthe, A NECESSARY biography, instead of “A political biography” To some people (read: me) Kgalema Motlanthe appeared in our collective South African lives as the guy who was willing to be the “stop-gap” president when the then president, Thabo Mbeki, was unceremoniously recalled from his presidency following his defeat in Polokwane back in 2007.

People really had little or no idea who the man was. This book takes to rectifying that. It methodically peels off the layers of this seemingly mysterious and very reserved politician. Harvey, the seasoned political writer he is, thoroughly researches his subject and really gets to know him.

He obviously talks to a lot of people – Motlanthe’s family included – about the man our deputy president is. He takes all this information and structures it in a story telling way that takes the reader through the journey of spirituality, political involvement and family dynamics that shape the man we have come to (only) known as Kgalema Motlanthe.

As well as, and very importantly, his role in the ANC and the apartheid struggle as a whole. I actually feel, I have to say, how Harvey must have struggled with “too much information”. It shows in the book, but he finds a way to make it work. Kgalema Motlanthe’s story is interesting to those who want to know about the ANC’s inner workings; who Kgalema is; what he believes in and the reasons why he chooses to approach his politics the way he has. His reserved nature leaves a lot of people (again read: me) feeling uneasy about his ability to stand up for his beliefs, or what those beliefs are.

He comes off as timid. He is undoubtedly quite a curious character. Because who in this world rises to presidency – stop gap or not – by being timid, right? Ebrahim Harvey writes this story without himself holding back on his own views when it comes to certain issues. This is done tastefully without taking focus off of his subject.

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