Nelson Mandela’s handling of the transition to post-apartheid South Africa made you wonder why all world leaders couldn’t be like that, particularly in the face of their failures elsewhere: at the moment of his election as president in 1994, Bosnia was tearing itself apart, Rwanda was a month into a hundred days of genocide, and there was little sign of international action on either. But that also made his election one of the most hopeful moments of the most dramatic five years in world politics in my lifetime, and that lingering hope was enough to soften the gritty impression made by Johannesburg when I visited it in 2000. One man can rarely make such a difference to how you feel about not only a whole country but the whole world, but Mandela did.

6 December 2013

People in 2012