Dear Tata Mandela’s family, you should let the media…………..

2013-06-29 13:59

It’s a matter of time now. You know it, I know it, the nation knows it and so does the whole world. It is sad, but it is true. It has to be said.

I have been watching the developments around uTata’s deteriorating health with keen interest; especially the part where you family needs to interact with the media and keep us all interested parties informed. I am writing this piece to you, to give you a view of how things look from my flip side. I have a good feeling that the opinion I am about to share with you is a view shared by a vast majority in the country and around the world.

I have to state from the onset that I am not in any allegiance to any media house or media employees; quite frankly, I personally don’t like the way some reporters and journalists get in someone’s face at the best of times, just to get a scoop out of them. If find it even more annoying when they blow a little story out of proportion in a quest to out-score each other when reporting issues. The reality though is that the media is a significant role player in the world we live in today; therefore the media people have a job to do and their job I am afraid requires them to be relentless at the best of times; even to the point of annoying. The trick is to know when to cooperate and when to ask nicely that you be left alone.

A few years back, I was in your shoes when I had to watch my own mother’s health over a period of 3 years. The helplessness one feels at such times when the realisation hits that this could just be the dreaded time. A friend of mine was saying to me the other day that it does not matter how old and frail a person could be, it will be difficult for their loved ones to give in and accept that they are watching them go. Therefore I understand exactly what you are going through as a family; when sometimes there is a flicker of hope but most of the time it is a dark pit that gives you knots in your stomach when you stare down on it.

Over the past few months and more over the past few weeks, I have noticed how you people are interacting with the media. Some of your interactions with the media leave a lot to be desired; so I thought I would give you a few pointers:

1. uTata always cooperated with the media

uTata was his own man in his days; even though he was a staunch ANC member and a leader in the party, when it came to his personal life, he took control how much is in the spotlight and how information was disseminated to the public. He always had a bunch of spokespeople, but when it came to his personal life, he almost always informed the media himself.

I am sure most of you were there, back in the day, when he was addressing the issue about his divorce from uMama Winnie; everyone could see he was at pains to express this to the media, but he knew it needed to be done and therefore he did it. I still remember this with a smile; I remember when one of the female journalists asked him “Mr Mandela, are you going to get married again?”, he responded “well, will you marry me?”. That was the end of that question and everyone understood the implication of his retord.

You see that was the man uTata was when he dealt with the media; I loved and respected that about him. Just because he can’t handle the media himself now in his twilight days, does not mean you people now have the authority to trample all over the media, throwing one temper tantrum or another when it suits you. It is childish and irritating for you people to keep telling us this or that is private, when you need to share critical news about his condition with us. Of course there are things that are private, but come on, us the public have a right to know. It would hurt nothing for you to people to advise us that he is on life support, for example.

2. The ANC does not own Tata’s limelight

One of the biggest mistakes you made was to let the ANC represent the family from the beginning when addressing the media. You should have demanded presence from there and then, whenever the ANC started addressing the media about uTata’s health. By taking a step back, you allowed the ANC to manipulate the situation, as if they own the old man’s presence and legacy.

With all due respect, the ANC only represents 11 million of the voting population if the last election results are anything to go by. Just because they are the ruling party, it does not make them the voice of authority and wisdom on everything around uTata; especially the ANC of today’s with all those opportunists in the leadership.

This bunch goes on as if uTata solely belonged to the ANC, which he did not; he belonged to all of us, ANC members or not. It is the state that is taking care of uTata, not the ANC; therefore you should not have let these opportunists use that as leverage to try and control things around uTata.

By letting the ANC run the show, you missed an opportunity to present a united front to the media as a family. You also missed an opportunity to take your rightful place in the face of the public, which uTata respected enough to share with them as much as possible about him.

3. Let one person represent the family

You people must rally together and decide on one single spokesperson for the family; someone the family agrees on and whose leadership they respect. The rest of you should stand back and focus on supporting each other through the difficult time you are going through. Right now, you people are doing it all wrong; everyone is going around running their mouths whenever an opportunity presents itself. The next moment you are crying foul and accusing of the media of all sorts of wrong doings; forgetting that you got yourselves into that situation in the first place. If it’s about blame, you people shoulder some of that blame.

Could you people please rein Makaziwe in; she is not doing herself or the family any favours by conducting herself the way she is. Also, she is not doing uTata’s legacy justice by throwing tantrums like that around the media. Please try and get her to understand that even though uTata is your real father, he also adopted all of us a long time ago, before some of you were even a twinkle in your fathers’ eyes.

4. Applying double standards

Please be advised that when it comes to the media, you either embrace-and-work with them or you dissociate yourself from them and let them find their own facts. You cannot like them one moment and loathe them the next. Should you decide not to cooperate, they will definitely dig around and find something to tell. The world is full of people that always know something; it’s just a matter of someone running to the media anonymously, then the whole house of cards will come tumbling down. uTata is the world’s hero, therefore there is more interest in him that anything else right now; it is not easy to accept that, but you people must learn to live with it.

5. Hiding behind culture

Something I don’t understand is why when it suits you people, you approach things the modern way; the next thing when something is uncomfortable, you resort to the cultural way of doing things. Don’t you think it looks silly when you tell the nation and the world that it is against your culture to discuss someone’s death while they are still alive and the next moment you have a female representing the family in the public eye?

In an African culture, the women in the clan would have taken a mother role and focussed on making sure that the family is able to cope with the situation, while the men would be doing the uncomfortable job of dealing with the public and making all other arrangements. The daughters of this family could learn something from uTata’s wife Graca, on how a woman conducts herself during this time of crisis in the family.

You cannot hide behind culture only when it suits you. We saw that a mile away and we are saying No No No!!!!

The moral of my piece

In summary, I am urging you all to have a strategy when dealing with the media, but please remember that you cannot blow hot and cold at the same time. You need to take a stance to cooperate or not and make it known, with clear limits of how far the media can take the issue. However, just keep in mind that uTata might be your father, but he also a hero to the world and because he was a man for the principle of ‘majority rules’, our right to know as a public almost trumps your right to sulk and not share information with us.

You people’s actions are in direct conflict to the principles the man stood for. He was not selfish in his approach and he chose the people together with the family a long time ago, hence he became an ambassador for freedom and peace. The reason he kept you people out of media focus, was to give you an opportunity to build your own legacy, without the challenge of having to get over his first. You cannot, all of a sudden come in and take over his legacy, build your own and stop being selfish around this man.

uTata was the father to everyone (yes, I have said that more than once already, get it!!). I know that blood is thicker than water but in my opinion uTata crossed that threshold a long time ago when he decided to stand up to the injustices of the past, for the people; even when the biggest price he had to pay was part from his family.

By disrespecting the media, you are disrespecting the public the media informs; therefore you are tainting the legacy the man took 94 years to build, 27 of which was spent in the dark away from those he cherished the most.



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