This article examines Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s political life and legacy from the perspective of critical decolonial liberation ethics, which privileges a paradigm of peace, humanism and racial harmony and opposes the imperial/colonial/apartheid paradigm of war, racial hatred and separation of races. This system emerged in the 15th century and was driven by the desire to conquer, dispossess, colonise, exploit and segregate people according to race and, alongside imperatives of primitive accumulation, it informed the colonisation of South Africa and the imposition of apartheid. Mandela was a liberation fighter who provided an antidote to the colonial ideology of racial profiling and hierarchisation. What distinguished him from other freedom fighters was his commitment to the cause of human rights as early as the 1960s, long before it attained its status as a constitutive part of global normative order. When Mandela became the first black president of a democratic South Africa, his practical and symbolic overtures to whites and his reconciliatory politics aimed to call them back to a new inclusive humanity. Critical decolonial ethics logically enables a tribute to Mandela that privileges his commitment to a post-racial society and new humanism.

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