Nelson Mandela is dead, long live Mandela.
What a life. What a man.
In spite of this sad moment for South Africa and the entire world, please allow me to break away from the mundane. I would like to focus on what I have preached to so many over the years.
Among the foremost newsmakers you can find is eminence. Like him or not, dead or alive, Nelson Mandela will make news, for now and for a foreseeable future.
And thus, as we wake up to the news of his death, I can only imagine how much the news of Mandela’s death has come as a relief and reprieve to some among us who have been in the news for wrong reasons.
Whether guilty or not, President Jacob Zuma would be very relieved that for today and indeed the next few weeks, South Africans and the world will take their focus from his Nkandla drama.
Inevitably, news for at least the next two weeks is going to be about Mandela and for a while, everything – however wrong, monumental, or abominable – will be insignificant.
Mandela’s death has stolen the thunder from public protector Thuli Madonsela’s reports last week condemning a string of politicians.
Mandela’s death will come as a relief to Tina Joemat-Pettersson and Dina Pule who once again have been unfavourably cited by the public protector.
Mandela’s death steals the thunder away from the new and old political parties seeking to grab the nation’s attention with their diatribe of policies and philosophies ahead of next year’s elections.
In fact sadly, even the many women, girls and children that continue to be victims of our senseless violence – during these 16 days of activism – will be of less significant newsworthiness, thanks to Mandela’s death.
Whether it is the readiness of Brazil to host the FIFA World Cup next year, or the total collapse of governance in the Central African Republic, or the mundane politics of America or even Japan’s flirting with a nuclear disaster, all these will pale into significance for a while.
And such is the world of news. Reams of paper, reels of film, column centimetres of newspapers and hours of airtime radio and TV will be about Nelson Mandela.
Mandela in life, and now in death, has proved once and for all that eminence will always precede many other factors of news when it comes to priorities.
When he was taking retirement from active politics and said “don’t call me, I will call you”, many didn’t realise that active or not, his very name will always call the world into action.
How many times did his hospitalisation almost bring this nation and the world to a standstill?
How many times has false alarm and rumour about his death created fear and despair in the heart of millions?
Whether or not you liked Mandela, he was the real deal. He was news itself.
Even young children knew Mandela ahead of other eminent people all over the world.
In fact, I know I am not exaggerating when I say, in South Africa many children recognised Mandela more than they did (and do) incumbent president Jacob Zuma.
This is not a slight on Zuma. It is just a demonstration of how big a brand, a figure, a symbol Mandela was.
So, for the next seven days of the official memorial of Mandela as declared by Zuma, South Africa will be at a standstill. Nothing else will be news.
Sadly of course, and almost nauseating even thinking about it, all we can expect is the horde of politicians, public figures and pseudo celebrities, who will seek to use Mandela’s name to make news themselves.
Brace yourself for all sorts of claptrap of news and attention-seekers who will abuse Mandela’s name if only to fill one more column centimetre or minute of air-time.
However nauseating though, that’s how the world of news works. Brace yourself for it.
Once the tears have dried, once the obituaries have been told and written, the name Mandela will remain news for a foreseeable future.
Rams Mabote is a journalist, spin doctor, connector, author and MC. He owns the consultancy, The Kingmaker. Follow him on Twitter @ramsmabote.
IMAGE: Nelson Mandela Foundation
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