No one really knew what to expect when Mandela was released en route to his election as South Africa’s first black ruler. He was known to be eloquent, and had put himself through college and law school, much of it while a political prisoner.
Then the horror story ends and the fairy tale begins. Unlike Robert Mugabe to the north, Mandela did everything possible to hold the country together. He didn’t want to drive whites out as Mugabe was doing, guaranteeing the economic destruction of what had been a country that could provide itself with everything it needed, partly because it was forced to by international sanctions.
If he was a Roman Catholic, Mandela might well be canonized. Yet this man, strong but not prideful despite hundreds of awards including the Nobel Peace Prize, wrote in Conversations With Myself that he was never a saint, even when he tried to do good. "I never was one. Even on the basis of an earthly definition of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
The book was way too late. His people have already beatified him.
While he was president things ran fairly smoothly. Since he retired in 1999, his ANC constantly has been the victim of power struggles. Crime has soared, particularly violent crime. Corruption is rife.
Can the fairy tale continue after the 92-year-old, hospitalized this week with a collapsed lung, dies?
Or will it become more like Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country, where a black Anglican priest goes from Zululand to find his son, only to learn the boy has murdered a white man who had fought for black rights. Even then, though, there was hope, as the family of the victim began working to help blacks raise themselves up. But a year after it was written apartheid became law.