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Article

The rhetoric of Pan-Africanism and the debate on African identity in South Africa: President Thabo Mbeki’s contribution

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 36, issue 2, 2016, pages: 189–199
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2016.1252017
Author(s): Liesel HibbertFaculty of Education,

Abstract

This article draws out the implications of the debate on African identity in post-apartheid South Africa within the context of former President Mbeki’s Pan-African reflections on the African Renaissance in his quest to include South Africa in two power games. Firstly, President Mbeki aims to insert South Africa into the politics of the African continent since it (South Africa) is seen by many on the continent as a ‘coconut’ (a derogatory term implying that the person is black on the outside, but white on the inside). Secondly, President Mbeki is also making a concerted effort to have South Africa join the global economic race after decades of isolation. A brief history of Pan-African thinking on the ideal/idea of an African cultural and intellectual revival sets the stage for subjecting Mbeki’s speech ‘I am an African’, as well as a journalistic piece by Mmusi Maimane, now the leader of the opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, to a rhetorical and critical discourse analysis (CDA). These two South African politicians inhabit positions at opposing extremes of the political landscape. The purpose of a CDA is to critically lay bare the unexamined assumptions which inform the political rhetoric locked up in the text. The analysis demonstrates that embedded in both texts is an overall message of inclusiveness rather than exclusivity.

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