Whether or not Nelson Mandela was emblematic of the new South Africa, his memorial service certainly was. Thamsanqa Jantjie, the lovable laugh-a-minute sign-language fraud who stood alongside President Obama gesticulating meaninglessly to the delight of all, was exposed in the days that followed as a far darker character. A violent schizophrenic charged over the years with burglary, rape, kidnapping, and murder, he was also a member of a “necklacing” gang — necklacing being the practice of placing a gasoline-filled tire over the head of the victim and setting it alight.
Nevertheless, Mr. Jantjie was merely the ne plus ultra of the South African state’s shambolic security operation for the service. My fellow congregants at this parish have been arguing in recent weeks over whether Mandela was a great man (Deroy Murdock) or a Commie terrorist (Andrew McCarthy) or on balance a mild disappointment (Conrad Black). But beyond such assessments is the daily reality that a lot of things in South Africa simply don’t function anymore. As revealing as Mr. Jantjie’s extensive and violent criminal background is the fact that the National Prosecuting Authority cannot reliably state which offenses he has been convicted of, and, for the one crime for which he seems definitively to have been sentenced, whether in fact he served the sentence.