Born on June 18, 1942 in the Transkei, South Africa, Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki joined the African National Congress at the age of 14, representing it abroad from 1967. Appointed head of the ANC's information department in 1984 and international department in 1989, he became a vice-president of South Africa in May 1994 on the attainment of majority rule, and sole vice-president in June 1996. He succeeded Nelson Mandela as party president in December 1997 and as president of the Republic in June 1999.
His father Govan Mbeki (1910-2001) was a leader of the ANC and of the South African Communist Party. Imprisoned (1964-87) with Mandela and Walter Sisulu, he was vice-president of South Africa's Senate in 1994-99.