Early this morning I switched on the television, tuned to eNCA, to catch up with the overnight news. I saw Jeremy Maggs and Iman Rappetti. It took a few seconds to sink in. There could only be one reason why the channel’s prime time news anchors were on screen at 6am. Nelson Mandela was dead.
Although not unexpected, it still hit me right in the solar plexus. Twitter buzzed last night with the news of military vehicles outside Madiba’s Houghton Home. General Bantu Holomisa, a well known friend of the family, had arrived. It was the kind of activity the media had come to expect over the months that Mandela’s ill health was top of mind around the world.
“Because there’ve been so many scares in the past, where he could have easily passed, most news organisations have had tributes ready for a while,” says Styli Charalambous, CEO and publisher of the Daily Maverick. The online news site was up to date with tributes to Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada’s poignant accolade, President Barack Obama’s homage, the ANC’s heartfelt statement. “We were awake and working most of the night,” says editor Branko Brkic.
eNCA online general manager, Timothy Spira, had a Light a Candle for Mandela microsite up and running by 7.30am. It allows the public to sign on via Facebook, light a candle and send a message. Spira said the site was inspired by previous occasions when the public sent outpourings of love to Mandela during his illness. “One thing really touching and inspiring was the tributes flowing to website, via social channels. So we thought it would be good idea to create a home for these tributes,” Spira said. As the candles are lit, the world lights up with tributes.
Charalambous says some publishers have had microsites ready for years. “And international broadcasters crews have been on standby to mobilise at a moment’s notice. Today’s coverage will be mostly tributes and then the focus, I’d imagine, will turn to funeral preparations and state functions, which will need to be covered live,” he says.
Spira told The Media Online that some content had been in “preparation for months and even years, including a large body of longer-form documentary material produced for television, which we are making available online as well. But a lot of our output today could not have been predicted, let alone produced, before we had a handle on how Mandela’s death would be mourned and his life celebrated, both within South Africa and around the world,” he says.
“We always knew that once this story broke it would be only story worth following, so once we had confirmation we dropped just about everything else. In all likelihood we will continue to prioritise this story for the next few days, at least until after the funeral. This is a profound moment in our country’s recent history and our coverage will continue to reflect the significance of Mandela’s contribution to our country and the impact that he has had on the global stage,” he said.
“Mandela has had a long and protracted illness. But when it happened we suddenly forgot all our training,” he told eNCA. “But then we started creating content based on the mood of the nation. The thing with online is that it’s a two-way medium and we are able to put news out, and take in the way people are reacting.”
President Jacob Zuma announced Nelson Mandela’s death late last night. The website of the Presidency has been updated with a splash page honouring Mandela. The www.mandela.gov.za site uses a famous quote by Mandela: ‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we’ve lived. It is what difference we have made that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
President Zuma said South Africa has lost it greatest son, and the people have lost a father.
“Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, his compassion, and his humanity earned him their love. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family. To them we owe a debt of gratitude,” Zuma said.
“Our thoughts are with his wife Mrs Graca Machel, his former wife Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, with his children, his grand-children, his great grand-children and the entire family. Our thoughts are with his friends, comrades and colleagues who fought alongside Madiba over the course of a lifetime of struggle.
“Our thoughts are with the South African people who today mourn the loss of the one person who, more than any other, came to embody their sense of a common nationhood. Our thoughts are with the millions of people across the world who embraced Madiba as their own, and who saw his cause as their cause.”
The SABC’s special tribute to Nelson Mandela has it’s own microsite. It is delivering 24-hour coverage on SABC 2 as well as all its radio stations and social media channels. It also has an SMS line for the public to send its condolences on Mandela’s death. The number is 34767.
The Cape Times ran a full page photograph of Mandela, with a classic black border, and the dates of his birth and death. The Cape Argus also run a full page photograph, but used a different image of Madiba.
Die Burger has posted a multimedia presentation of historic Mandela front pages over the years. From sepia toned images of his imprisonment, to his release, inauguration and presidency, the newspaper has used its archives to chronicle the life and times of the extraordinary man.
Beeld carried the same presentation, as well as a great clip of an interview by ITN’s Brian Widlake which took place on 21 May 1961. The journalist met him when he was on the run from police, and hiding out.
Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, were at the premier of Anant Singh’s film of Long Walk to Freedom. The screening went ahead at the request of the family, and the audience was told after it ended that Mandela had died while they were watching the film. Prince William commented , saying “”We were just reminded of what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was and my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family right now.” Buckingham Palace is flying the royal standard at half mast.
Johnny Clegg and his family have sent their condolences to Mandela’s family. “We also share with all South Africans and the global community our sense of loss and sadness at his passing,” Clegg said in a statement. “Nelson Mandela will always define a deep part of what and who are as individuals and as a nation. It is difficult to separate the great journey to secure a democratic and non-racial South Africa from his personal qualities and character. For all South Africans he was the face and form of that voyage, particularly in the crucial decade of 1990 – 2000.
“With all our fellow South Africans we acknowledge with deep gratitude the debt we owe to this Man from Qunu, who bequeathed us this great country of promise. Today, although we grieve, we also proudly rejoice in his remarkable life, which we were privileged to share through extraordinary times.”
Continental Outdoor Media said it had learned with great sadness of the death of the “Father of our Nation, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. We convey our sincere condolences and deepest sympathies to Madiba’s family and to the Nation,” says Barry Sayer, executive chairman.
“As a gesture in these dark hours with the great loss of a unique human being, Continental Outdoor Media is paying tribute to Nelson Mandela and showing their respect during this time of mourning by wrapping black ‘arm-bands’ around every upright on every billboard along William Nicol Drive, from Sandton to Fourways. The ‘arm-bands’ have the word ‘Madiba’ printed in yellow on the black flex. In addition, Continental Outdoor Media’s roadside digital network and countrywide networks of DigiPosters and DigiPods in airports, malls, medical suites, pubs and restaurants will display the message, “In honour of the Father of our Nation, we will always remember you.”
The Times newspaper’s online TimeLIVE has created a visual timeline of Mandela’s life. It has also listed the books written about the great man, delivered all his speeches, and collected photographs of the time of Mandela.
“It came almost as the clock struck midnight. A sombre President Jacob Zuma, dressed in a mandarin-collared jacket, made the announcement we have expected all year. “Our beloved father has departed,” wrote City Press editor, Ferial Haffajee. She said South Africa would mourn, but then “pick up the baton and finish the long walk to freedom”.
The Mail & Guardian has managed to deliver a special edition in honour of Mandela. It has changed the newspaper’s masthead by inserting the famous Mandela silhouette. Editor Angela Quintal posted a photo of the front page on Twitter .