Were we really being ‘un-African’?

2011-02-01 13:39

The African protocol for sickness and death, applied to ailing former president Nelson Mandela, is not a matter of agreement in the community.

President Jacob Zuma’s spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, accused the media of “un­African” behaviour this week.

Kodwa reportedly said it was “very un-African and very alien to African culture” to speculate about Mandela’s health.

This was after hundreds of local and ­international journalists camped outside Milpark hospital and Mandela’s Houghton house this week to get updates on his condition.

But one of South Africa’s most prominent church leaders disagreed.

To ask: “I heard that he is sick, what is the problem?” does not constitute bad manners in African culture, Pastor Mphikeleki Mahlobo, general secretary of the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa, said yesterday.

Asked to spell out the African protocol for sickness and death, he said it would be totally unacceptable to enquire about the cause of death.

African culture regarded the decision on what information to give out as the prerogative of the family, he said.

But Mandela’s illness, Mahlobo pointed out, was different. This was a high-profile issue because Mandela was a world­-renowned icon.

“He is larger than the family and the government,” Mahlobo said.

“Therefore the family and the government should have handled the matter ­differently.”

Mathole Motshekga, the ANC’s chief whip and chairperson of the party’s ­commission on religious and traditional ­affairs, disagreed.

People’s privacy, he said, had to be respected. For a world-renowned person like Madiba there would be an “official communication”. But “to go and camp at a hospital and even suggest a person is dead when it is not true is the highest form of inhumanity,” said Motshekga.
He is larger than the family and the government– pastor Mphikeleki Mahlobo Opinion: Who owns Madiba? Plus key quotes and sound clips from Friday’s media conference on Mandela’s health; Tweets from the stars; and more: City Press.co.za/nelson-mandela

» Wish Madiba well. SMS Madiba, followed by your message, to 42987. You can also email messages to web@citypress or leave them as comment at www.citypress.co.za

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