Thabo Mbeki's Rise and Fall
Early life: Mbeki was born in June 1942 in an agricultural village in southeastern South Africa. At 14, he joined the African National Congress Youth League; at 19, he was ordered by the ANC to leave the country for education to prepare for a leadership role.
Higher education: He earned a master's degree in economics at the University of Sussex in Britain and underwent military training in the Soviet Union, a key backer of the ANC's armed campaign against apartheid.
Presidency: Mbeki was elected in 1999 to succeed anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela as South Africa's second black president. Mbeki emerged as a leader who was always willing to stand his ground despite criticism of his policies. South Africa's economy has grown steadily under Mbeki's rule, but his opponents say he has favored business at the cost of the poor.
Mbeki was reelected in 2004 to a second term. But in late 2007, he lost an ANC leadership contest to rival Jacob Zuma, who is likely to become South Africa's next president.
Key diplomatic accomplishment: Long accused of taking too soft an approach to Zimbabwe's crisis, Mbeki brokered a power-sharing deal this month between veteran Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leaders, including Morgan Tsvangirai.