His greater achievement, though, was to see the need for reconciliation, to forswear retribution and then to act as midwife to a new, democratic South Africa built on the rule of law. This was something only he could do. He gave hope to millions of Africans and inspired millions of others elsewhere, but if his successors in government have been less admirable, and if his example has not been followed in countries like Zimbabwe, that should not be surprising. Heroic though he was, he did not have the messianic powers some attributed to him, nor could others be expected to match his capacity to hold high principles, to live by them and to use his moral stature to such effect. Circumstances, after all, could hardly suit everyone so well. Hard though much of his life had been, Mr Mandela lived long enough to see his work through. That gave him his great achievement, and his story a happy ending. And the modern world loves a happy hero even more than a tragic one.
Nelson Mandela: The long walk is over (The Economist - December 5th)
The man who freed South Africa from apartheid died on December 5th, aged 95. We assess his claim to greatness