NOTE: This item expresses the views of the individual to whom the item is ascribed and does not necessarily reflect the position of the WRF as a whole.]
WRF Board Chairman Rick Perrin
When Nelson Mandela died last week at the age of 95, he moved into the realm of sainthood. How else does one describe this man around whom myth circulates like a golden cloud?
He spent twenty-seven years in the center of his life as a prisoner on Robben island. The apartheid government that desperately clung to power in the 1970s and 1980s kept him sealed there to minimize his influence. But the legend grew. Mandela, prisoner 46664, reached beyond the walls to become the symbol of the South African majority population’s cry for justice.
I recall how about 1968 a representative of that government addressed a political affairs club at my college. He made a determined effort to gain the sympathies of the student body. But those were the days of America’s own revolt. His arguments met with hostility and jeering.
In 2006 I visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. A visitor is plunged into the experience of repression and the riots and the brutal suppression the black and colored peoples lived with. I saw the armored vehicles that patrolled the streets and deployed white troops into trouble spots. I viewed the pictures of the killings. There was, frankly, little to commend in those days.
But Mandela was a Marxist. And revolution ran in his veins. Marxism has brought the death of millions and the suppression of the human soul whenever it has been in power. So how do you square that, even in the name of justice?
But when Mandela walked out of prison he soon led his African National Party to a peaceful overthrow of the white minority—through the ballot box. Nelson Mandela became president. And South Africa changed.
The world expected bloody reprisals to follow. A lesser man would have ruled with lingering bitterness and imposed retribution. But Mandela surprised everyone. He compromised. He produced changes without recrimination.
Not everyone was happy. Mandela’s then wife Winnie was a radical Communist. She was not pleased. “Mandela let us down,” she is quoted as saying. “He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside.” She would have bought “equality” with blood.
According to political scientist, Professor Theo Venter of Northwest University in Potchefstroom, there is still inequality. Blacks still live in the townships, many times without electricity or indoor plumbing. We would describe these places as ghettos.
The government Mandela created brought inexperienced and incompetent managers to power with the result that today 80 percent of the government under-delivers services, and corruption flourishes.
Mandela is not a saint. He was not even a great president if one rates presidents according to able administration and efficient government. But he transformed South Africa in peace. And that was a greater accomplishment
Now with national elections only months away, the major political parties scramble to lay hold of the Mandela legacy. The ANC claims Mandela as its own. But the Democratic Alliance, still seen as the party of white privilege, surprisingly also reaches for Mandela’s mantle.
The full transition to a race-less society remains at least a generation away. The times to come may well contain peril. But what South Africa needs most of all—as is true of every nation on Earth—is the presence of the Prince of Peace, whose rule over men is yet to come. Isaiah prophesied, “The government will rest upon his shoulders; And His name shall be called…Prince of Peace.” His kingdom will be one of “justice and righteousness.” (Isaiah 9:6-7) Nelson Mandela did not give South Africa that. His government did not seek the help of God. It relied only on the power of the people and political deftness.
May those people in South Africa who long for justice and shared prosperity seek Jesus Christ as their king to rule in their hearts. For he is the only source of true and lasting peace for any people.
Dr. Rick Perrin is Chairman of the Board of World Reformed Fellowship and senior pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Cherry Hill NJ. He writes a weekly blog called ReTHINK which may be accessed at www.rethinkingnews.wordpress.com. He may be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.