With the passing of Nelson Mandela, world and media leaders of leftist persuasion (but I repeat myself) are falling all over themselves praising Mandela. They have all chucked the book of South African history into the dustbin. I hope this post reminds you of that history.
Nelson Mandela was nothing without President F.W. de Klerk, the last President of apartheid South Africa. In fact, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee realized this when they co-awarded the Peace Prize of 1993 for the two leaders' JOINT effort to end the official Government policy of Apartheid in South Africa.
The facts of history are that Mandela was a communist revolutionary, and F.W. de Klerk was anti-communist. They were enemies, and Mandela's revolution is well documented. de Klerk surrendered the apartheid policy for the whites, and the war ended. Had de Klerk chose to fight on, South Africa would have been utterly destroyed.
Now, History generally judges successful revolutionaries by how well their post-revolutionary efforts held up. Like the majority of revolutionary leaders of note, Mandela was successful on the field, less so in administration of the new government. The new South African regime seized corporations and properties, on the sole excuse that their owners were white. This inspired other African nations to do the same. Jomo Keynatta comes to mind, but there were others, and the practice continues to this day all over the continent.
Mandela was noted for not executing his defeated enemies, and he even formally forgave many of them. To me, this is his main legacy. I have mixed feelings about the "Truth Commissions" he established: most were simple witch-hunts, but most whites who faced them were forgiven their sins (after being stripped of all their pre-revolutionary wealth).
There is one huge stain on Mandela's record, though, and no review of his legacy is complete without it. That is the black thugocracy that established itself after Mandela took over. Mandela's own wife was part of it. Government power was used to establish gangs which not only indulged in corruption, they operated crime rings as well. South Africa is only just beginning to work out of this problem in this last decade, but it has a long way to go.
Nelson Mandela opened the doors of South Africa by overcoming the white door-men. The transition to multi-racial democracy has only just begun, though, and only time will tell if it flourishes or fails.