Putting “RIP” in the title goes against the grain a little for an atheist, but if anyone deserves a peaceful afterlife, it’s Nelson Mandela.
Although he started off in less privileged circumstances than the white rulers of South Africa, he could have had a fairly comfortable life, compared with his black countrymen. His sense of justice wouldn’t allow that, however, nor would it allow him to choose violence wholeheartedly. Even when, in 1961, he helped found the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), it’s campaign of sabotage was waged at night in order to minimise casualties.
An opportunity to justify violence presented itself when he was imprisoned for 27 years but, on his eventual release, he did everything he could to avoid that violence. When he was elected President, he deliberately missed another chance of revenge, instead working hard for reconciliation, and even included National Party officials in his government.
The reactions to Mandela’s death have been of three main types: those who think him a saint; those who regard him as a terrorist; and those who thought him a terrorist, but find it convenient now to laud him as a saint.
Mandela was no saint, and I doubt if he ever thought of himself in that way. He was no terrorist either. The terrorists in South Africa were the people who supported Apartheid. Many of their supporters from abroad actively worked against the abolition of Apartheid, until public opinion became so vehement that they realised they were on the losing side.