Has Mbeki's absence from the political landscape made South African tweeters nostalgic or has it given them collective amnesia? Whatever the theory, the social media platform gushed with messages of support and praise for the ousted leader.
Some tweeters couldn't resist comparisons with the current administration, going so far as to claim that no one congratulates President Jacob Zuma on his birthday and that the reception is not as jovial.
In fairness, several tweets were laced with sarcasm and other condemned the former president for his stance on HIV and Aids.
Let's not forget Thabo Mbeki gave us Jacob Zuma, by suppressing investigations into the arms deal!
— luqmaan jacobs (@luqjac) June 18, 2013
It's Thabo Mbeki's birthday. Let's "commemorate" his legacy of racialism, foolish Africanism, corruption, failing governments…
— Alex Lansdowne (@alexlansdowne) June 18, 2013
Happy Birthday Thabo Mbeki. I miss him, at least he looked like a dignified statesman while he ruined the country & made idiotic statements
— ThEditor (@ThEditor) June 18, 2013
But it seemed like the majority of tweets wishing Thabo Mbeki happy birthday came from a place of praise, tinged with the sepia glow of nostalgia.
Still sad we got Jacob Zuma over Thabo Mbeki . But Happy Bday To Thabo.
— Daniel Maseko (@Pantsula4Dayz) June 18, 2013
Shame looking back, I hated on Thabo Mbeki for nothing, he was a good president
— Ayanda (@AyandaMfusi) June 18, 2013
Someone once referred to Thabo Mbeki as a Dead Snake. Wooooww! But today the tune is in contrary and its a wind of praises all over.
— I Love Gupta Actions (@ProffJola) June 18, 2013
Even Julius Malema got in on the action with this tweet:
Happy Birthday cde President,we wish u many more years son of the soil… pic.twitter.com/6jXQfRoaDk
— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) June 18, 2013
It's hard to say but at first glance it does seem that many share feelings of loss, longing and loyalty, if only on Twitter.
Tweeps be wishing Thabo Mbeki a happy birthday yet no1 has done this for Zuma lol
Thabo Mbeki will forever be my president.. Happy Birthday
— Ramogolo (@lebolukewarm) June 18, 2013
Despite his reputation for being an astute politcian and an intellect, some took their love for Mbeki quite literally …
Happy birthday President Thabo Mbeki…we never got to make love. Saddens me. I love you King!
— KOLA BOOF (Official) (@KolaBoof) June 18, 2013
But hey, if my husbaand ages like Thabo Mbeki, shiiiyyyyt, I aint mad!
— Sachi (@Seesh07) June 18, 2013
I can only hope that my future husband ages like Thabo Mbeki.
— Athi Ngembe (@AthiPC) June 18, 2013
Perhaps the praise for Mbeki was a case of wanting something you can no longer have or maybe time helps us forget the flaws. Singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell said it best: "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot".