Mandela media vigil a gathering of vultures

2011-02-05 09:51

Former president Nelson Mandela is rightfully revered universally as the liberator of South Africa, a saintly sage whose wisdom and humility rehumanised a brutalised people and nation, and taught the rest of the world about genuine reconciliation. It is no wonder then that any hint of ill-health seemingly beyond the obvious for a 92-year-old would instigate a media frenzy and fuel all manner of speculation.

Understandable as that may be, it does not mean it is correct. In fact, it is downright disrespectful to both Madiba, his family and those people who genuinely, even though unrealistically, wish him immortality.

Of course, there can be no bigger story than Mandela’s ill-health and possible results thereof, but every person – especially one who practically sacrificed his own life for others – deserves dignity in ill-health.

The media vigils in truth were a group of vultures dancing a macabre dance, willing Mandela’s death for their own satiation.

There was a time of good morals and ethical behaviour in our society and culture, when the ill health of an elder and community leader would be spoken of in whispers, not turned into a public spectacle, disallowing his family their right to carry their pain in peace and privacy.

We all know the media’s riposte will be that they did not say that Mandela is dying, but their voyeuristic vigils around the hospital amount to that.

They cannot be healthy for Madiba’s family, who at this time simply need our reassurance and empathy.

It is unethical, as many are doing around the country in offices, public transport and homes, to in effect accuse Madiba’s family and the Nelson Mandela Foundation of lying when they say he is undergoing routine treatment and is in good spirits.

What should they say? That he is dying?

Even if Madiba were gravely ill, it would not be for them to predict his death.

None of us knows when anyone will be called to service beyond this life.

Families will always cling to hopes for the recovery of their loved ones, so it is insensitive, at the very least, and actually rude to expect them, whatever the condition of their loved ones, to pronounce imminent death for them.

Let us return to and reclaim our values of respect – ubuntu-botho – for those in pain, and sympathise with them rather than reduce their plight to Facebook fodder and Twitter tattle.

Let us accord Madiba and his family the space to focus on his health away from the glare of video cameras lustfully, as would happen in game reserves, following a lion seemingly, to them, mortally wounded and for which they have allocated their own number of final hours. We in the Moral Regeneration Movement are appalled by the immorality of our broadcasters in treating Madiba’s ill-health with the banality of so-called reality shows.

Madiba deserves no less privacy in ill-health than any of us.

It is enough to write and report about his admission to hospital. We do not need to camp around the hospital – in an obvious suggestion, even secret wish, of his imminent demise – just for money-making scoops.
» Mkhatshwa is national chairperson of the Moral Regeneration Movement

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