Reflections on the legacy of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was a remarkable and contradictory figure. He was a revolutionary who believed in armed struggle and admired Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. He was a believe in freedom and democracy who refused to hate anyone because of their race. And he was the leader of a government that preserved the economic status quo and protected the interests of corporate business.

The charts below are a snapshot of what he accomplished and what he did not accomplish.

south_africa-1024x744The top chart shows how black South Africans came to identify with their country since apartheid ended, and black South Africans were given the right to vote and equal civil rights with whites.

The bottom chart directly below shows the economic gap between white and black South Africans that still remains. While the incomes of black South Africans, adjusted for inflation, have doubled since the end of apartheid, the income gap between whites and blacks has widened.



George Orwell, in Reflections on Gandhi, wrote that all saints should be considered guilty until proven innocent, and went on to write a highly critical essay on Gandhi’s ideas and career.

In the same spirit, here are reflections, from differing perspectives, on Nelson Mandela’s legacy.

Mandela radicalism often ignored by Western admirers by Simon Hooper for Al Jazeera America.

A simple graph shows the profound effect of Nelson Mandela by John Sides for the Washington Post.

The longer walk to equality from The Economist.

The Mandela Years in Power by Patrick Bond for Counterpunch.

Beyond the Myth of Mandela by Sarah Ruden for the UK magazine Standpoint in 2009.  Hat tip to Rod Dreher.

The second and third articles are the sources of the charts.  The last two articles are long, but if you sit down with a cup of coffee and read them, you may, as I did, gain a greater appreciation of the unresolved problems facing South Africa, and the inability of Nelson Mandela and his successors to address them.

I still say of Mandela, as Orwell said after his long critical essay on Gandhi, that “compared with the other leading political figures of our time, how clean a smell he has managed to leave behind!”

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