Nelson Mandela Image from  Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died on Thursday at age 95 at his home in Johannesberg, South Africa after a long illness.

A man who led many lives–anti-colonialist, anti-apartheidist, politician, national icon–Mandela is being mourned worldwide as one of the greatest Africans in history whose greatest contribution to his country may have been what he said after spending 27 years in prison: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

Indeed, he seemed to leave that bitterness and hatred at Robbens Island and his example as South African elder statesmen saved his country from the fate suffered by its neighbor, the former Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, where blacks under Robert Mugabe wreaked vengeance on their previous white overlords and drove their nation into chaos and starvation.

Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Soviet Order of Lenin among hundreds of other awards, Madiba,  (Mandela’s clan name), was accorded the extraordinarily high honor by President Barack Hussein Obama of being compared to America’s Abraham Lincoln when Obama said shortly after hearing of Mandela’s death, he now “belongs to the ages.” 

Whether Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was in any way comparable to Lincoln or whether he truly “belongs to the ages” is a matter of some conjecture.  Lincoln certainly didn’t share the South African’s early history of terrorism, mass murder, and inciting rebellion. 

Young Mandela  As leader of UmKhonto we Sizwe, (MK), the terrorist wing of the ANC and the South African Communist Party, Mandela admitted at his 1962 trial to 156 acts of public violence, including bombing campaigns in which a number of innocent people, including women and children, were killed. Because Mandela refused to renounce violence, Amnesty International declined to defend him since “it could not give the name of ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ to anyone associated with violence.” 

Also, when he became South Africa’s president in 1994, instead of attempting to resuscitate his country’s moribund economy and with President Bill Clinton’s help, Mandela launched an arms campaign to purchase everything from submarines, to helicopters, to advanced fighter aircraft.  In addition, he compounded that insult to his people by befriending, condoning, and accepting financial support from the likes of bloody dictators such as Nigeria’s General Sani Abacha, Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and Indonesia’s Suharto. (  

It’s not coincidental that Nelson Mandela’s real name is Rolihlahla, a name that claims means “troublemaker” and he was re-named Nelson by a schoolteacher after the South African village of Mvezo, Nelson.   

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was an obvious troublemaker who in his youth committed untold atrocities and later in life wasted much of South Africa’s treasury and consorted with some of the worst dictatorial reprobates on the planet.  It’s fine and dandy to honor him for saving his country but let’s not canonize him.  And, for godsake, let’s not compare him with Lincoln!