I am not convinced that our government even remotely understands the impact that Nelson Mandela has on the world and it’s media.
There was something of a clue over the past couple of weeks, when he was in hospital, for anyone who bothered to monitor BBC World, Sky News, CNN, Al Jazeera and thousands more TV and radio stations, newspapers and news magazines.
All of them had daily reports on Mandela’s condition and progress. And all of them were patently frustrated that the only news they were getting was from a patronising and evasive presidential spokesman.
I shudder to think of the mayhem and chaos that will undoubtedly ensue when the presidency takes charge of this great global icon’s passing.
I do not for a minute believe that government is prepared. Not even remotely.
What I do know is that the media is.
For the past 10 years at least, major TV networks and newspapers the world over have been compiling and updating the Mandela obituary. It sounds crass and insensitive I know, but its something the media has been doing with regard to global dignitaries for decades.
It is also something they have to do not only in the public interest but to pay the maximum degree of homage to great men.
The way in which the media has been lied to with regard to which hospital Mr Mandela was taken and other details was an insult to the people of this country. Lying to the media is lying to the people.
But then, government has never ever grasped the concept of the medium merely being the messenger.
Frankly, I believe the international media has been far too kind to our president and his spokesman and I can only assume that it was out of respect for Mandela.
Some of those to whom I have spoken have, however, questioned why the presidency seems to have completely usurped the role of intermediary between Nelson Mandela and the world.
They question whether the Mandela family has graciously accepted that the best thing is for only one person to speak about the health of Nelson Mandela and that the best person to do that is the president via his spokesman.
If indeed they have, then I would suggest the family also has a complete lack of understanding and appreciation for the enormous interest and love the world has for Mr Mandela.
In my opinion, the presidency has commoditised the Mandela brand.
There has been no emotion whatsoever. Just patronising, often devious and carefully rehearsed statements.
The fact that so many media people camp outside hospitals and the Mandela home is not an invasion of privacy but in my opinion, a demonstration of the affection the world has for him.
Sure, media companies are businesses and they make money out of news and news about Nelson Mandela’s is big money. But, if one watched the international and local TV news reports these past few weeks, it was patently obvious that these were conducted with the utmost respect. There have been suggestions of photographs of Mandela in his hospital bed taken by hospital staff last week, were offered to the media – all of whom declined.
There is no doubt that the world media is well prepared for the fateful day that Nelson Mandela passes away. No one wants to think about it. No one wants to talk about it. But, it is inevitable. Just as it is for any other human.
Whether or not government and the family have planned anything, who knows, but if it is managed in the same way that his sojourns in hospital have been, then it is going to be a monumental embarrassment to his family, the country and the memory of one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.
It seems to me that the presidency and by implication the ANC has taken ownership of Nelson Mandela. That’s wrong.
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