Mandela: Locals cash in as ‘fixers’ for the foreign press

2013-06-30 14:00

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Enterprising locals are cashing in by helping international reporters with big budgets who are reporting from outside the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital where former president Nelson Mandela is being treated.

So-called runners – who run errands for international camera crews, such as fetching them water, coffee or fast food – are raking in $120 (R1?186) a day.

So-called fixers – locals with knowledge of the media landscape who help set up interviews or find sources – are earning $300 a day.

A local who declined to be named said the practice of employing fixers was common around the world, with many South African media houses also employing their services when they travel abroad.

“You need fixers to help you understand the culture and language of the country you are in. They help bridge that gap and make work easy,” said the man from Cape Town.

Runners – who are usually well-connected students – have also helped to ensure that reporters don’t have to leave their bases.

“Only the major media houses can afford runners and if you are lucky, they will pay up to R1?200 a day for you to help them get food, supplies and anything else they need,” said another cameraman who works for an international news agency.

Last week, City Press reported how an enterprising tenant was subletting his tiny balcony of his apartment across the road from the hospital for an astronomical sum. A well-known news agency is paying R3?500 a day to keep its cameras focused on the hospital.

The media, in particular international media, was heavily criticised this week by Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, who likened them to vultures.

But this criticism was softened on Friday evening after her stepmother, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, thanked the media for keeping the public informed, but appealed to them to stop making insensitive comments about her ex-husband’s health.

“I am sure none of you would want to hear the same about your family,” she said.

“If we are sounding bitter, it is because we are dealing with a very difficult situation. You can understand.”

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