False knowledge ended Gaddafi's rule, says Mbeki
Former president Thabo Mbeki yesterday found himself in the spotlight again - this time as the keynote speaker at the International Knowledge Conference in Cape Town.
Delegates packed an auditorium at the University of Stellenbosch's Business School in Bellville to hear Mbeki deliver the opening address.
The university is hosting a three-day conference to "explore the role of knowledge in building a better society".
Speakers will include not only academics from around the world, but also leaders in the business and NGO sectors, as well as policymakers.
Mbeki said 2012 was an important year for Africans because it was the "holistic centenary of the ANC, the very first post-modern liberation movement" on the continent.
He said the use of knowledge and management of knowledge was a subject close to the hearts of Africans.
"This is because we have to confront the urgent and difficult challenges to eradicate poverty, underdevelopment and gross social inequality as quickly as possible and to achieve lasting equitable social and national cohesion and the continuous improvement of the life conditions of all our African people in the context of growing and transforming economies," the former president told the conference.
He posed several questions and gave tasks to the delegates, including having to define the exact meaning of knowledge, what knowledge leaders needed to ensure the "betterment" of the nation and whether the possibility existed that "some in society" controlled access to knowledge to determine what people knew.
Mbeki also spokeabout last year's enforcement of the "no-flight zone" in Libya.
"[A] false knowledge was advanced that [slain Libyan leader Muammar] Gaddafi's regime was about to slaughter millions of civilians. This was used to justify the imposition of a 'no-flight zone' over Libya, which served as a cover to overthrow the Libyan government and impose a regime approved by Western powers, in their interests."
Another theme he suggested the delegates look at was the Council of Europe's assertion that false knowledge resulted in a "fictional swine flu epidemic" that saw billions of taxpayers' dollars spent in response.
This, Mbeki said, benefited dominant global pharmaceutical companies.
He also said he believed the media in South Africa was "very influential" in conveying knowledge and the possible "expansion of the cadre of young intellectuals empowered to create new knowledge".
He said though South Africa was a democratic country, it was not fighting to mould itself into one nation sharing a common identity and patriotism.
"This surely means that it is in the vital interest of all our people that the historically inherited and contending understandings of 'knowledge', of which contestation continues to this day, should be given free reign, each to establish its place in our society through open dialogue as 'the truth', and therefore a legitimate player in the formation of the new South Africa, which is still in its infancy," said Mbeki.