South Africa: 8,000 Days - Ambush in the Office

book review

In his new book, '8000 Days', former Cape Times editor Tony Heard describes his decade in the Presidency as special adviser, and a dozen years elsewhere in government. He interacts with Presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, and joins their entourages on two unforgettable visits to the UK. In this extract, Heard describes a remarkable ambush in his office by the eccentric ex-Minister of Health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

She bore down on me with a vengeance showing unshakeable belief in a myth of the age.

It was spring 2008. The scene was the Union Buildings in Pretoria, in my office in the West Wing.

The issue was HIV/Aids.

Her name was Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who was married to influential Mendi Msimang, former treasurer-general of the ANC.

This visit meant trouble.

There was a caretaker president in office in South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe, who had previously been minister without portfolio in the Presidency. His career had been more than upwardly mobile.

The president-in-waiting, Jacob Zuma, licking victorious lips, was preparing for what the astute commentator, Max du Preez, was to describe as his "wrecking-ball" role in the nation.

A lesser question had nagged us in the Presidency: who would succeed Motlanthe as the...

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