A lot of conservatives were skeptical of Nelson Mandela in the early 1980s. Apartheid was dehumanizingly godawful — but Mandela wouldn’t publicly renounce violence while in prison; his wife was a Marxist who countenanced “necklacing” enemies with tires full of burning fuel; and another, seemingly less radical route to ending apartheid seemed to lie in the path pushed by Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who also had the virtue of advocating free markets. To his credit, Buthelezi insisted, at some cost to his own power, that his own “homeland” not be afforded independence until Mandela was freed and Mandela’s African National Congress legalized.
Buthelezi was far more right about Mandela than most American conservatives were. Mandela proved, via his “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” and other noble actions, to be a great force for unity, non-violence, and progress. He proved, indeed, to be a figure with lasting, worldwide, indelibly beneficial significance. Others, at far greater length, will rightly recount his accomplishments. Suffice it to say, by way of immediate reaction, that Nelson Mandela was a great and good man. May he rest in the Lord’s true peace.