News is crossing the wire in the last few minutes of the passing today of Nelson Mandela, at the age of 95. I never quite knew exactly what to make of Mandela. During his long years in prison, when his clearly loathsome wife Winnie and the African National Congress were openly pro-Communist, I naturally feared the worst. But around the time Mandela was released I happened to make the acquaintance of Leon Louw, one of South Africa’s leading (perhaps only) libertarian intellectuals. Leon noted, among other things, that Apartheid was essentially just another form of centralized socialism. About Mandela he said to reserve judgment, and that he was optimistic about Mandela’s future.
I started to think Leon was on to something when one of the first things Mandela did after gaining his freedom was divorce Winnie. I’m not a close student of South African affairs, but there was certainly a marked contrast between Mandela’s stewardship of the transition to full democratic rule there and the course of events in most other African nations such as Zimbabwe, which seem to follow the rule “One man, one vote–once.” RIP.