Over at Comment is Free, David Cox's article arguing that Nelson Mandela doesn't deserve statue in Parliament Square is raising hackles as I'm sure it was intended to. I have some sympathy with his argument and I certainly think than Mandela is praised too highly. He opposed Apartheid which is obviously a good thing, but objecting to your own suffering is hardly exceptional especially when it doesn't seem to have imbued him with a principled rejection of tyranny. Similarly his forgiveness of his opponents is frequently praised, but no one seems to ask why it is considered a good thing to forgive people who murdered and tortured political dissidents, although rather conveniently it meant that his ex wife's crimes including child murder could also be ignored. Perhaps it was necessary in order to prevent South Africa descending into civil war and economic collapse, but he isn't praised for being an efficient pragmatist, but rather a moral exemplar. The only act for which Mandela deserves unambiguous admiration is his decision to retire at the end of his term, in a continent where leadership has traditionally been a job for life.
Mandela's record as a pragmatist is more impressive than as a secular saint, contrary to the view promulgated elsewhere the ANC inherited an economy that was moribund and turned South Africa into an economic success story with a growing middle class. The horrific murder rate that afflicts South Africa has actually been declining pretty steadily since the end of Apartheid, from 70 per 100 000 in 1994 down to 40 per 100 000 in 2005, the crime rate was not a problem created by Mandela's rule. If the Mandela boosters were simply claiming that he was a pretty competent president then I would have no objections. They go further than that though and treat any criticism of the man in much the same way that the Spanish Inquisition treated criticisms of the Pope.
This isn't to say that I have any great objection to a statue being raised in his honour, he compare perfectly well to the other recipients of this honour, except for not being British, but his nomination for canonisation is on rather shakier ground.
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