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The child of teachers-activists, Thabo Mbeki has said he was "born into the struggle," and got involved in political activism at a young age. Mbeki left the country in 1962 under orders from the ANC. The exiled expatriate took the over its department of information and publicity in the 1980s as right-hand man to ANC president Oliver Tambo.
Later that decade, as director of international affairs, he was a key figure in ANC negotiations with the apartheid government, most notably leading the delegation in the "talks about talks" dramatized in "Endgame".
Chosen by Nelson Mandela to be the first deputy president of the new Government of National Unity in 1994, Mbeki became president of the ANC in 1997, and two years later was elected president of South Africa.
Mbeki drew criticism and praise during his tenure, gaining notoriety for his position that AIDS was not caused by a virus. He resigned as president in 2008, after the allegation that he interfered in a corruption case against his former deputy and ultimate successor Jacob Zuma — a charge he denies. (Zuma, as head of ANC intelligence, had attended three of the meetings dramatized in Endgame.) Mbeki stepped down the same week several African leaders lauded him for brokering a deal in Zimbabwe between President Robert Mugabe and his opposition.