Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

20 August 2014

South Africa: Political Legacy - Is Death the Great Cleanser?

analysis

Since being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in April last year, Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini has suffered immensely, and in the early hours of Saturday morning, could endure the agony no more.

He took his own life, bringing to an end a colourful career. A myriad of tributes poured in, praising his life's work. But Oriani-Ambrosini was also a controversial character in South African politics, which many people prefer not to speak of now. The passage of time can purify many political legacies but it can also destroy outstanding careers. With the ageing of a generation of eminent political leaders, how will and how should they be remembered?

South Africa really had an extraordinary case with Nelson Mandela. His life was truly exceptional, such that it is extremely difficult to pay tribute to his contribution to the world adequately. His role in the liberation struggle, in the transition, his remarkable leadership as the first president of South Africa, and then his global activism on Aids, human rights and education during his retirement made for a life story like no other. Madiba was unsullied by his mistakes and weaknesses, and also had the strength of character to acknowledge them....

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