Daryl Ilbury

Posts Tagged ‘Madiba’

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.