Daryl Ilbury

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

I never thought I’d ever say this, but…

In Free-thinking, media, Politics, Scoundrels on January 27, 2017 at 11:05 am

150826_donald_trump_2_gty_629.jpgI never thought I’d say this, but here goes: Since Donald Trump took office, I have developed a grudging respect for politicians. The very statement irks me to the point I feel nauseous. I have interviewed so many politicians, and found them, without exception, to be self-serving, and flexible with the truth. They revile me. They live in a filter-bubble of their own construct; they have to if they want to survive. And that’s why Trump won’t.

I once interviewed President Jimmy Carter. No matter what question I threw at him, he either delivered a brief, punchy answer, stepped to one side and deflected it, or spun it, creating the opportunity to talk about a pet project. It was a demonstration of the skill of a seasoned politician.

But all that comes with experience in dealing with the news media, who can be obstreperous at the best of times. They have to be. Part of their job is to hold politicians to account – tackle them at every turn, ensuring they do what’s right for the people, not for themselves. A successful politician is one that knuckles down, keeps their nose clean – or at least away from the media – and plays the game: remain sufficiently high profile to show they’re doing their job, but away from the spotlight when they’re not. And on those occasions when they fail, and they will fail, they need to endure the inevitable media backlash and, often brutal, public rebuke. It hurts; but if they stick it out, they’ll toughen up, even become impervious.

What they can not be, is thin-skinned. This is why successful business people usually make bad politicians – they are used to blind acquiescence from those lower in the hierarchy and selective accountability to a familiar higher authority. Being publicly challenged by a mainstream media with a mission to find fault is, for them, unsettling and annoying.

Donald Trump is the wrong person for the position of US President, for reasons already suggested: he is arrogant, selfish, bigoted, misogynist, ignorant, and delusional; hell, I’d venture to say he’s batshit crazy. But it’s his inexperienced, reactive, ill-tempered response to criticism in the media that will be his undoing.

The question is, how many people will suffer on his way down?




Fake news? Nothing new.

In media, Politics, Scoundrels on January 24, 2017 at 8:47 am

gadaffi-was-a-woman1Mainstream media is getting all frothy about ‘fake news’ as if it’s a new thing. It isn’t of course. So why all the bother? There are two reasons, but before I get to them, let me explain why it’s nothing new.

I took this photo while walking past my local newsagent on the Sunday after the death of Muammar Gaddafi, the deposed leader of Libya, on 20th October 2011. The paper claimed that according to an autopsy, Gadaffi was…well, you can read it in the headline.

Now you have to be a special kind of stupid to believe something like that, and yet there would have been readers breathlessly repeating this story over a beer or a cup of tea later that day. Of course, there would have been others who would’ve laughed about it.

The fact is, it was written by a ‘journalist’, edited and then published by a mainstream newspaper. All along the process, it would’ve been known the story was fake, but it was published nonetheless.

But there was a subtle nod to the possible dodgy nature of the story in the masthead. UK tabloids such as The Sun, The Mirror, Daily Star and Sunday Sport, publicly herald their tabloid nature right there on the front page, in their title: white, on a red background. It’s almost like a warning flag: ‘herein lies possible fake news’. In a way, it’s honest subterfuge.

And that’s one of the reasons why the fake news you’re hearing about in the mainstream news is such a big deal: it’s more insidious. It appears alongside real news under mastheads that seem so, well, ‘non-tabloid’. Readers no longer have the red tab to warn them. The people writing the stories also don’t seem to do so with a wry eye; more with the equivalence of malice aforethought. To make things worse, the stories are finding a firm footing in that most unguarded of news outlets: social media.

The second reason for the noise about ‘fake news’ is tied to the fact that it’s running amok from the conceiving grasp of mainstream media; and there’s a word for that: guilt.

Where Women’s Day fails

In Eish!, Free-thinking, Politics on August 8, 2015 at 9:53 am

National_Women's_DayThis is, and is not, one of my favourite times of the year. Every year in South Africa 9th August is National Women’s Day, and it’s a public holiday. It commemorates an important day in the country’s history when approximately 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the country’s pass laws that required South Africans defined as “black” under The Population Registration Act to carry an internal passport – known as a ‘dompass’.

The event is considered so important that the entire month in which the date falls is declared National Women’s Month. To be fair, the Government should be commended for trying to lead the country towards normalcy. There is a balanced representation of women in the cabinet, arguably far more so than in most other countries. Moreover women command key positions such as Minister of Science and Technology (Naledi Pandor), Energy (Tina Joemat-Pettersson), Environmental Affairs, (Edna Molewa) and State Security (Ellen Molekane). The media may claim their performances are patchy – as the Mail and Guardian’s infamous annual report card attests – but this is purely representative of the ANC’s rather dodgy selection of leaders in general rather than an indication of the performances of women versus men.

However, by recognising women as natural leaders the Government is addressing a critical failure in traditional African culture – a still fiercely patriarchal mindset that regards women as second class citizens best left behind at home to bear children and cook food. (A litmus test for this is the number of women allowed to drive minibus taxis – in all my years driving I’ve seen one). This is compounded by a strong religious undercurrent that draws on the many biblical references that portray women in this way (not to forget original sin, which, according to Ecclesiasticus 25:24 was all Eve’s fault!) I have written about this before, and, as you can expect, it found me no friends amongst my fellow men.

However, where I get frustrated is how the media and commercial sectors portray Women’s Day. It seems to be all about the femininity of women (search ‘Women’s Day’ in Google Image and see what I mean). An example is the South African iStore that sent out its ‘Celebrate Women’s Day’ mailer that included links to apps it felt were suitable. These were limited to apps for changing hair colour, shopping, and monitoring the menstrual cycle (called, I kid you not, Period Tracker). Such things, in my opinion, risk entrenching the stereotyping of women – in accordance with cultural and religious mindsets – as shallow and weak.

Women’s Day and Women’s Month, should not be about celebrating femininity – it should be about correcting historical and current imbalances in the mindset of men. The South African government should be lauded for trying, we now need the country’s men to step up to the plate.

Atheists really are nice people

In Free-thinking, Politics on August 5, 2015 at 3:51 pm

Atheists-Have-Nothing-to-Die-ForWith the inevitable pace of interest in the US Presidential elections picking up pace as more and more politicians throw their hats into the ring, and anticipation grows of when Donald Trump will implode, discussion around dining room tables will invariably turn towards the qualifications of each candidate. A key component of qualification will be their religious affiliation, for no other reason than it seems to be necessary for a candidate to be religious.

Comedian and TV host Bill Maher recently tapped into this rather strange phenomenon. He went on to say, “Poll after poll shows Americans would elect almost anyone before they elect an atheist”. He then added rather contentiously, “They would probably elect a pedophile before an atheist.”

How correct is he? A recent Gallup Poll suggests that maybe, just maybe, Americans are beginning to step out of the Middle Ages and join the rest of the civilised world in realising that atheists aren’t evil. According to the poll, although an atheist as a presidential candidate would enjoy broad acceptance from those who don’t identify with any religion (understandable), 91% of whom say they would support an atheist for president, this drops to 47% among Protestants, and is not much higher among Catholics (58%). As a result, the overall percentage who would vote for an atheist stands at 58%.

That’s not very high, but it’s a lot higher than it was back in the late 1950s when a similar poll said only 18% of Americans would vote an atheist in as President.

What does stand out in the poll though is that although people of various religions have varying levels of rejection of candidates who are gay or lesbian, evangelical Christian, Muslim, atheist or socialist, atheists themselves are a lot more accepting of any candidate, irrespective of their upbringing (with an understandable disinclination towards evangelical Christians – there are enough of those anchored in the wings in the Tea Party dragging the country backwards).

The clear message here is that atheists really are nice people…ideal candidates for providing moral leadership to a country needing it.

Sometimes it’s easier to drink the Kool Aid

In Eish!, Free-thinking, Politics on June 1, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Jonestown17I’ll never forget the images of the bloated corpses rotting in the tropical sun. I was 16 years old when it happened; and that’s possibly why, nearly 37 years later, my wife often catches me shaking my head and sighing, seemingly for no reason.

In the oppressive days of apartheid when South Africa was excommunicated from the rest of the world, Scope magazine was a refreshing distraction. It was best known for the scantily clad women that adorned its cover – and many of the pages inside – always with stars stuck over their nipples (the Calvinistic government of the time though the sight of nipples would invoke all manner of ills, natural disasters not impossibly among them). But there was another reason Scope was so popular: it featured cutting-edge photo-journalism from around the world.

On this occasion the main feature story was the Jonestown Massacre. It was so shocking that it had kicked the pretty young lady off the front cover. The story inside was unbelievable: Over 900 devoted followers of a charismatic preacher called Jim Jones had unquestioningly followed his instruction to commit mass suicide. The images showed their corpses littered around a compound cut out of the jungle in Guyana, South America. What upset me most were the images of entire families lying face down, their arms around each other or lying protectively over babies.

But it wasn’t a clear cut case of suicide. The children and the dogs were force-fed grape-flavoured juice laced with cyanide. They had been killed. The parents and adults then followed, drinking the concoction before lying down to die. The Revered Jim Jones skipped the drink, choosing instead to blow his brains out. The drink was called Flavor Aid, but was often misreported as Kool Aid – the trademark name of a similar drink sold in the U.S. In a rather macabre salute to the massacre, the term ‘drinking the Kool Aid’ has emerged – mainly in the U.S. – as a figure of speech for anyone steadfastly holding on to a doomed belief without critically examining it.

I like to use the term not only because I remember the massacre, but because as a journalist I have been encouraged to examine everything with a critical eye, to be cynical in the absence of firm, corroborative evidence. This is liberating because I don’t get sucked into stupidity; I am not influenced by any of the myriad diverse religions that somehow each claim sole legitimacy and demand unquestioning submission. But it’s also tiring, because every day in the news I am bombarded by the actions of people who are more than willing to do unquestionable things in the name of religion – in the Middle East, in the Ukraine, in the U.S. or anywhere else where religion warps their world view.

So that’s why I continually shake my head and sigh. Perhaps it would be easier to just drink the Kool Aid.

The anti-GM hypocrisy

In Eish!, Fools, Politics, Science, Scoundrels on January 15, 2015 at 6:05 am

figure6I am both fascinated and frustrated by people who use advances in science and technology to object to advances in science and technology – it reeks of hypocrisy; and I reserve a special frothy ire for those who use all the scientific and technical means at their disposal (such as social media) to object to biotechnology, especially around genetically modified (GM) food. 

The recent decision by the EU to allow its member states to decide for themselves whether they should allow GM crop cultivation, has shaken the anti-GM lobby from their slumber, and they’re beginning to make a noise again.

Unless you’re someone who understands the science of biotechnology and the context within which the research and development takes place, the chances are you’ll sway towards, at least, being cautious towards GM food, your head swimming with warnings of contamination, or fears that if you eat GM food you’ll give birth to a child with three heads. 

And yet, you still want the right to have children. Yes, GM food and your right to have children are linked.

First of all, as I’ve said before – content is king, context is King Kong; so first, a little context: Scientists suffer the popular misperception that they:

  1. Like to tinker with nature – they just can’t let it be;
  2. Think mechanically – they just can’t stand back and respect the aesthetics of nature;
  3. Like to play God – they just can’t let nature be;
  4. Like to retain an aura of exclusivity and mystery – they think they’re better than everyone else;
  5. Have evil designs on the world.

Every scientist I’ve interviewed – and I’ve interviewed a lot – does research for the same reason: they are deeply fascinated with the natural world (especially their focus area) and wish to contribute to the greater public understanding and appreciation of it; and where it’s applied to usable products (technology), how it can improve the human condition. And whereas one or two of the scientists I know may lack the social graces of writers and artists, they’re certainly not evil!

And yet the anti-GM lobby would have you believe scientists are evil, because it serves their agenda to drill into you one thing: fear (here’s a typical example of more tempered fear-mongering).

The reality is that you’re already eating food that has been genetically modified, but over thousands of years – it’s called evolution; and the developments in GM food – such as increased pest-resistance – would more than likely happen naturally, but eventually.  

That would take time, time that a rapidly growing, eternally hungry, increasingly urbanised human population, with limited resources at its disposal, doesn’t have. The anti-GM lobby – and I’ve met a lot of them – seem ignorant of this fact (and are certainly ignorant of the science of biotechnology) and are happy to live their own precious lives enriched with all the trappings of science and technology, content to denigrate the very same science and technology that has an eye on feeding the future.

20:20 vision…and it’s not good

In Eish!, Politics, Scoundrels on April 27, 2014 at 4:43 am
ANC moving forward

ANC election poster promises signposting actual delivery

On the much-lauded 20th anniversary of the first truly democratic elections in South Africa, there’s a lot of retrospective navel-gazing in the media mixed with modern promises and political fighting-talk ahead of the next elections on 7th May. For me this is all captured in the image on the left.

Some context: I took the picture during my daily walk to work along one of the major streets in the centre of Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital. It’s a snapshot of conditions of a portion of the city that’s a stone’s throw from the city hall – an ANC stronghold – and a couple of minutes drive away from the seat of national Government – The Union Buildings – also full to the rafters with senior ANC decision-makers.

At first glance you notice the rubbish strewn on the pavement. But look closer at the poster half way up the pole (you may need to double click on the image). It’s an ANC election poster showing President Jacob Zuma with the words underneath ‘Together we move South Africa forward’. The juxtaposition between promise and delivery is jarring.

What you can’t see is the litany of broken paving, missing manhole covers and indefinitely suspended road works that are repeated throughout this part of the capital, and through which the municipal, provincial and national ANC decision-makers travel regularly.

This is not an isolated case. The ANC’s election claim it has a ‘good story to tell’ of governance over the last 20 years has been found by respected fact-checking journalism organisation Africa Check to be almost entirely false. The media are also full of stories of corruption, mismanagement and abandonment of responsibility. Another, more worrying, snapshot of this is in the deterioration of the once highly-respected Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

What makes all this so truly unbelievable is that it most probably won’t make a shred of difference to the people of Pretoria who are expected to return the ANC to govern the city, the province of Gauteng and the nation as a whole come 7th May.

So why is this? In brief: the typical South African doesn’t have sufficient maturity of understanding of their entire role and responsibility in the democratic process. They don’t understand that it is they who ultimately hold the Government to account, and that this responsibility requires rigorous implementation at election time.

This is very much a reflection of the lack of critical thinking by South Africans – a result of a decades of state control during apartheid; embedded traditional cultures that demand unquestioning reverence towards leaders; and a pervasive identification with religions that provide promises of delivery – without accountability – by mythical beings.

Personally, I believe that if the people of Pretoria walk past this kind of scene every day and still vote the ANC to power on 7th May, they deserve to get screwed. Again.

“What the f…, Daryl?”

In Eish!, Politics, Science, Scoundrels on April 23, 2014 at 4:51 pm
Fodder for the South African media consumer. Image: The Guardian

Fodder for the South African media consumer. Image: The Guardian

It took a tweet from @ScienceWTF quoting British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin to jolt me back to writing – that and a full six months in my current position as Media Coordinator at SAASTA. I have over that time come to realise that the only way to get more science into the public domain is not with a gentle nudge but with a silk-enrobed sledgehammer.

That may sound a little blunt, but in my travels across the country and in my interaction with South Africans – both creators and consumers of media content – I have noticed two things: the relative lack of imagination and maturity in the South African media landscape, and a lack of critical thinking in the typical South African media consumer.

I am not surprised given that I am intimately familiar with the editors’ mantra “our readers/listeners/viewers don’t have an appetite for science”. This is of course highly inaccurate because we are all voracious consumers of science (albeit largely unknowingly so). But more about that later.

So what does the average South African media consumer have an appetite for? If we are to judge by the content currently peddled by the conventional media, it’s the following: Oscar Pistorius, politics, crime and – trailing at the back somewhere – sport.

Let’s examine those one by one by asking a couple of basic questions about their relevance:

Oscar Pistorius

Who will be directly affected by the outcome of the Oscar Pistorius trial and therefore has a proper reason for following it? Outside of Pistorius and his family, the family of Reeva Steenkamp, and the prosecution and defence teams, few, if any. So why are so many people glued to it? For the same reason Romans used to pour into the Colosseum to watch Christians being eaten by lions. There’s a word for it: schadenfreude – and it represents a particularly nasty side of human nature. Therefore the deafening coverage of the trial in the media actually speaks unflattering and uncomfortable volumes about the (lack of) humanity of the South African media consumer. So therefore why cover the trial to such an extent?


Who is directly affected by the detailed coverage in the media of the actions (or more accurately inactions) of politicians? Outside of the politicians who rely on remaining in the public attention in order to remain relevant, few, if any. Unless, of course, by their actions (or inactions) being covered (uncovered?) in the media, they receive their justified comeuppance. However, in South Africa such accountability is virtually absent, otherwise half the players in politics would be in jail. So therefore why cover it to such an extent?


There’s no denying crime, especially violent crime, is rampant in South Africa; so much so that rape and murder hardly make the headlines any more. That’s a shocking state of affairs, but not so much as the fact that it’s not considered sufficiently so by the Government to warrant any decisive intervention (see point above on inaction). It’s fair to say the typical South African media consumer has become inured to reports of crime. So therefore why cover it to such an extent?


There’s also no denying that South Africans have a passion for sport, especially football (that’s real football by the way, where players actually put foot to ball, not American ‘football’, where they don’t). With so much passion, you’d think South Africans are good at playing the game; however, a quick glance at the FIFA rankings would show otherwise (hint: we’re buried on page 3). Granted, we are good at other sports, like rugby and cricket; but let’s face it, sport’s hardly a matter of life and death (and please don’t quote Bill Shankly is if to prove it is). So therefore why cover it to such an extent?

However, there isn’t a single element of our lives that isn’t examined by science – not one; and it’s usually with the purpose of improving our lives. Science isn’t 18th Century Greek architecture – the domain of specialists with niched scopes of interest! We consume it – it’s in the food we eat, in the technology we use, in the clothes we wear, in the natural and built environments in which we live, in the medicines we use, in the air we breathe, in the behaviour we display, in the way we think and in the way we move. We are also the very embodiment of science – in the chemistry of our blood and organs, in the physics of our limbs and in the electricity that courses through our brains; and we exist in a universe that is composed of the very same chemicals that are the building blocks of our bodies.

In short: science is the core of our very being.

The discipline of science also encourages critical thinking. Let’s not forget South Africa is a country where an ignorance of science is fuelling rampant levels of HIV infection, and where the belief in spirits and untested ‘traditional’ medicine is fuelling a plethora of miscreants offering everything from miracle cures to “bringing back lovers, lengthening penises and winning the lottery”. Don’t laugh – have you read your stars today? Do you really believe swirling balls of high density gas thousands of light years away move with the specific aim of determining when you should buy a lottery ticket? Of course not…and you don’t believe in fairies, either but you’d buy a lottery ticket and pray to some mythical god to help you win.

“Our readers/listeners/viewers don’t have an appetite for science”? What utter bollocks! They NEED science.

Smoking causes cancer, you retard! (Only it doesn’t)

In Eish!, Fools, Politics, Science on August 4, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Mouth CancerThe image you see on the left is that of a packet of cigarettes from Australia. See if you can see the brand name. It’s there on the bottom. In the smaller type. Virtually hidden.

My wife bought the pack during a recent business trip Down Under. She doesn’t smoke, but she does know how strongly I feel on the subject – not of the perils of smoking, but on how distorted the Australian authorities’ views are on matters pertaining to the health of its citizens.

As of 1st December 2012 all tobacco products sold in Australia must be in plain packaging. The motivation behind it is simple, but complicated. It is designed to discourage the buying of tobacco products on the belief that it will make for a healthier nation. Sounds simple enough because the link between smoking cigarettes and cancer has been established and is well known. Or is it?

It would be fair to assume that most people who saw this pack wouldn’t challenge its claim that ‘smoking causes mouth cancer’. However, the claim is not entirely true. The devil, as they say, is in the detail.

Smoking is just one of a number of risk factors associated with the development of mouth cancer – also known as oral cancer; but it doesn’t, as the box suggests, cause cancer. If it did – and this is important – then everyone who smokes would develop mouth cancer; which isn’t the case. In a way it’s like saying sex causes babies. No-one can deny the link between intercourse and conception, but having sex doesn’t cause you to have babies. Cancer is actually caused by the mutation of cells in the body.

Am I splitting hairs? No. It’s a question of scientific accuracy. Proof of causality is at the very heart of scientific research. It’s why rigorous methods need to be used to eliminate any extraneous variables in conducting scientific research so that a direct cause-and-effect relationship can be proven; i.e. if this, then that, every time.

Example: if every time a small electrical shock was applied to a particular part of a person’s leg their knee jerked and the lower leg was kicked forward, then science can claim than for that person the application of a small electrical shock to a particular part of their leg causes their knee to jerk and their lower leg to kick forward. If, however, for the first couple of times the person receives the small electrical shock they utter a small shriek (more from surprise or momentary discomfort than anything else), then science cannot claim that the application of a small electrical shock to a particular part of a person’s leg causes them to shriek.

So what does this mean for the relationship between smoking and mouth cancer? According to the NHS there are other risk factors – beyond smoking – associated with the development of mouth cancer. These include poor oral hygiene, diet, the human papilloma virus, smokeless tobacco (such as snuff and chewing tobacco), and the consumption of betel nuts and qat (a green-leafed plant that is chewed as a mild stimulant).

Oh yes. There’s another product that can cause mouth cancer; and this is where the distortion of values rears its ugly head. That product is alcohol – something that is passionately embraced as part of the famous Australian outdoor lifestyle. An example is proudly emblazoned on the Australian cricket team’s shirts for all the world to see.

In contrast to laws prohibiting tobacco companies to show their brands on their products, alcohol companies are left untethered to advertise their brands, and even sponsor sporting events where the drinking of alcohol is encouraged; even though the consumption of alcohol, like that of tobacco, has been proven to increase the risk of developing mouth cancer.

The term ‘double standards’ pops into mind.

What is true about the new, plain packaging though, is that it sends a very clear message to smokers – who are well aware of the dangers of smoking, but choose (as is their right) to smoke – that the authorities think they’re retards who haven’t got the message yet.

[In case you were wondering – no, I don’t smoke; and I don’t in any way encourage smoking]

The post-Madiba circus in full swing

In Eish!, Politics, Scoundrels on June 24, 2013 at 1:21 pm
Nelson Mandela image: Wikipedia

Nelson Mandela image: Wikipedia

As I write this, the latest media reports list the condition of Nelson Mandela as ‘critical’. Let’s be brutally honest: the former South African president is dying, and the world seems to be reacting with a mix of disbelief and denial. They cannot believe that at almost 5 years short of 100 years old, after 27 years of incarceration, and thereafter 23 years of being smothered by people wanting to press up against him and tap into his wisdom, his body has the temerity to want to pass on.

Twitter is all abuzz with chatter using hashtags such as #prayformadiba, #Mandela and #Madiba, wishing he’d get better, many praying that he will.

Why pray? Will it do anything? Let me remind you, when Pope John Paul II was ailing, virtually the entire Catholic diaspora held vigil and prayed for him…and he still died. Perhaps they were praying for his soul? Interesting seeing that the Catholic church believed he was second only to god, and possibly the nicest, most kind-hearted man on the planet; so you’d think if anyone would have VIP access to heaven, it would be him. If there was doubt whether the pope would go to heaven, it doesn’t bode all that well for the average sinner, does it?

Let’s stop beating around the bush and face reality: Nelson Mandela is going to die – we all die – and he will pass on shortly. What we should concern ourselves with is what is going to happen next…because when the post-Madiba circus kicks into gear, some things are going to take a turn for the decidedly distasteful.

Firstly, as a veteran media man, let me assure you that every major mainstream media organisation – radio/TV/print/online – is putting the final touches to their ‘Mandela Tribute’ package that has been humming quietly in a state of readiness for the last couple of years. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of those closest to Mandela have been contacted for a fresh soundbite. These organisations have also just made sure that everyone on the team has been reminded of the protocol/course of action when Mandela dies.

Trust me on this: his death announcement has already been prepared. This may sound unbelievable, almost distasteful, but it will be such a major media event, the words would have to have been chosen very carefully. It will also be an occasion to hold the world’s attention, so expect some senior figures within the ANC to use it as an opportunity. They will want to milk it.

When his death is announced, all the main media organisations will race to have their package appear before the media consumer first. Whether or not that’s distasteful depends on how you judge the commercial imperative of the media.

Aaaahhh…always follow the money. Expect, over the day or two that follows, a rush of very public print, online, radio and TV messages of condolences from companies and organisations, exalting Mandela and the work that he did, most likely claiming some measure of connection with him. They will make sure their logo is attached to the message. Obviously. As for the message…as you read this, there are advertising copywriters busily penning the lines of honest condolence…in the most effective way possible for their clients. Obviously.

Newspapers, especially, are anticipating his death with a certain degree of relish. Not only will it sell papers, but it will sell advertising, and no organisation will want to be the one that buys a small space near the classifieds. Oh no. They’ll want to go big. Expect the government departments, especially, to pull out all the stops in their publicised messages of grief and condolence…with the ever-present pictures of the respective department leaders displayed even more prominently. This will be one of the rare moments when public emotion can work in their favour.

Over the months that follow, expect a rush by provincial and municipal authorities to request the renaming of streets, parks, buildings and other public places and amenities, to honour Mandela. These have already been identified, the authorities have just been biding their time.

And this leads me to what will be the biggest opportunity for distasteful behaviour, because the true value of Nelson Mandela is not his presence when he’s alive, but his legacy once he’s dead. Once the funeral and commemorations have passed, expect a particularly nasty fight for the right to his legacy, to use his name and image (and the serious money it will generate), and to invoke and take ownership of everything he stood for.

The post-Madiba circus won’t be all distasteful, but I can imagine a lot of it will make him turn in his grave.