Motlanthe remains a closed book
Remaining true to his convictions of not being swayed by chattering crowds, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe left his guests with more questions than answers last night.
When he took to the stage in a packed Wits University Great Hall, where his political biography, Kgalema Motlanthe: A Political Biography, by Ebrahim Harvey, was officially launched, Motlanthe steered clear of internal ANC politics and the ongoing leadership succession battle.
Many in attendance had hoped the event would launch his Mangaung leadership campaign. They were not only disappointed, but were also puzzled by his demeanour, even in a room full of praise-singers
He remained silent on ANC politics and Mangaung. He only spoke about his recent trip to Italy, where he said he visited a project that looked at modern ways of teaching young children.
ANC Youth League members, who had taken strategic positions inside the hall in the hope that their songs would spark him into action, were frustrated.
Some in the audience shouted and called for "change", a buzzword used by those pushing for Zuma to be removed in Mangaung. But he was unmoved.
As he ended his brief speech, Montlanthe told the audience he had one wish before he died - an inscription on his tombstone reading: "Others made suggestions and he implemented."
Before Motlanthe addressed the audience, Harvey saidthe book launch - just as the ANC branches were debating who should lead the party post-Mangaung - had nothing to do with ANC politics.
"There were numerous delays getting the book out, and [these had] nothing to do with Mangaung," he said.
Harvey said what was important was that the book "comes in the midst of the biggest social crisis in South Africa". He said this was more important than the "Mangaung mania".
Harvey said after spending 200 hours with Motlanthe over three years, his conclusion was that the ANC deputy president was the "best bank" when it came to the ruling party's dynamics.
He said in his interaction with him, Motlanthe had nothing to hide.
"The man is truly a biographer's delight," Harvey said.
Just like Mark Gevisser's biography on former president Thabo Mbeki, The Dream Deferred, which hit the book shelves a few months before the ANC 2007 Polokwane conference, Motlanthe's biography will be analysed by some in the context of the leadership race.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who was part of the panel, said he was surprised that Motlanthe had agreed to have a book written about him.
"I had serious doubts that you'd agree to having a book written," Mantashe told him.
He told Motlanthe that his humility, which had drawn criticism among many South Africans, did not go hand-in-hand with his public office.
"You can't be media shy," Mantashe said, while looking at him.
He said South Africa had been deprived of access to Motlanthe's wisdom, which he said was more evident at ANC meetings.
The launch was also attended by ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale and Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel.
Also in attendance were ANC veteran Ahmed Kathrada and human rights lawyer George Bizos.