As South Africa – and the world – anticipates the funeral of Nelson Mandela, who is – allegedly – still in critical condition in a Pretoria hospital, the latest question being asked by everyone in South Africa is: Did the Mandela family strike a deal with CNN over coverage of Mandela’s funeral?
According to a report on the South African Independent Online (IOL News) website, there is already in place an arrangement, whereby the state-run South African Broadcasting Company (SABC) will be the only media organization to have television cameras at the funeral and that it will provide live footage of the event to the worldwide media, free of charge.
According to SABC executives, members of the Mandela family had a secret meeting at the end of last month with representatives of both the state broadcaster and the South African President Jacob Zuma’s office. According to the Sunday Independent, officials who attended this meeting claimed that the Mandela family demanded “preferential” access to the funeral proceedings for CNN. One of the unidentified officials who spoke with the Sunday Independent is reported to have said “This wasn’t a request. It was a demand. The CNN deal seems to be done and dusted.”
Makaziwe Mandela, one of the former President’s daughters, was unhappy that news of what was discussed at the meeting had been leaked. “Unless you tell me who told you this, I’m not going to confirm anything,” she said during a conversation with the Sunday Independent, “Tell me which of them it was,” she demanded, referring to the officials who had attended the meeting. “That was a confidential meeting and it should not be talked about.” The Sunday Independent refused her request and did not identify its sources.
CNN’s Johannesburg bureau has denied any knowledge of a deal, as has Phumla Williams, acting head of the Government Communication Information Systems (GCIS).
Other than the question of whether or not the Mandela family has made a deal with CNN over coverage of the funeral, a more interesting question is why such a meeting was held at all. The Las Vegas Guardian Express reported June 26th that Nelson Mandela had passed away the previous evening. The publication had received this information from a source very close to events in South Africa.
Official word out of South Africa is that the hero of the anti-Apartheid struggle remains in critical, but stable, condition and on life support in Pretoria’s Mediclinic Heart Hospital. On the evening of June 25th, the Mandela family had been joined by Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at Mandela’s hospital bedside. The Mandela family, along with South African President Jacob Zuma, have constantly urged South Africans to pray for Mandela’s recovery. The revelation that a meeting took place to discuss media coverage of the funeral appears to prove – beyond doubt – that Zuma, along with Mandela’s relatives, knew that no such recovery was going to occur.
Mandela himself has been seen by no-one – other than, reportedly, the President and family members – since the day the Las Vegas Guardian Express reported his death. Indeed, he has not been seen in public for some time prior to that.
Makaziwe Mandela has previously been vocal in her criticism of the international media; describing them as “racist” and “vultures”. The irony of her alleged deal with CNN over funeral coverage was not lost on IOL News.
Graham J Noble