Mandela: Reporting His Death and the Search for the Truth
The Las Vegas Guardian Express began reporting Nelson Mandela’s death June 26 and our search for the truth began immediately; not the truth of whether or not the former South African President was dead, for, of that report, we were already certain, but the truth behind why his death was being covered up. That search continues, but nothing we have uncovered leads us to suspect that Madiba still lives.
The timeline of how and why we reported the event has been recounted in several articles in this publication. In short; a text message was received by one of our South African correspondents, Laura Oneale, stating that Mandela had just died. According to the message, sent by an employee of the South African Broadcasting Company (SABC), the anti-Apartheid crusader had passed away sometime late in the day of June 25. During a hastily convened editorial meeting, it was decided that a select team of reporters and editors would begin to search for further information and work on one or more stories, reporting the man’s death and recounting his life.
In truth, the team was not completely of one mind, regarding how quickly we should release the news; erroneous media reports of Mandela’s death had been published in the past, followed by hasty retractions and apologies. Nevertheless, our source was exceptionally well-placed and there was no reason whatsoever to believe that this source would have even considered providing us with this information without being absolutely certain; the repercussions, after all, would have been too enormous. Within hours, therefore, we had published two articles announcing that Nelson Mandela had died.
Admittedly, we began second-guessing ourselves but came to the decision that to retract when we had found no evidence that Mandela was still alive ran counter to both our commitment to journalistic integrity and to our self-appointed mission of speaking the truth, no matter how unpleasant, unwanted or politically incorrect.
Having determined that our information was correct, we nevertheless embarked upon a search for the truth behind the cover-up of Mandela’s death. Our founder and publisher, DiMarkco Chandler, made the decision to send one of our top writer/editors to South Africa on a fact-finding mission. UK-Based Michael Smith travelled to South Africa on July 25 and, together with Laura Oneale, met with our original source and others in an attempt to piece together what was happening and why Madiba’s passing was being kept a secret. He returned with intriguing leads and an audio recording of a telephone conversation between a government security contractor and an officer of the South African Defense Force (SADF). Part of this audio was published here. The one statement in this recording which took us by surprise was the SADF officer’s assertion that Mandela had actually passed away on June 11; according to this source, Mandela had suffered total organ failure and was pronounced brain-dead – this came, apparently, from the chief doctor at the Pretoria hospital to which Mandela had been admitted June 8, to be treated for a recurring lung infection.
In the meantime, back in the United States, the Las Vegas Guardian Express website had been subjected to more than one cyber-attack. According to our IT expert, the ‘Denial of Service’ attack – which twice took down the site – had almost certainly originated in South Africa. This merely confirmed our suspicions that we were onto a story that many did not want told. It is only reasonable to assume that, had Nelson Mandela still been alive, our publication would have quickly found itself the recipient of a legal cease and desist order – almost certainly followed by a lawsuit – since, by this time, we had published additional articles that all contained the assertion that the South African icon was no longer with us. Rather than demand a retraction and apology, however, the South African authorities, it seems, attempted to prevent anyone from reading our reports. These incidents merely furthered our resolve; clearly, there was something to hide.
As we began to look into the activities of the Mandela family – particularly, their attempts to gain control of Madiba’s ZAR127 million (approximately $12.5 million) trust – we realized that his death may not have been announced because a dead man can’t be sued for his money. Our audio tape appeared to confirm this. Current South African President Jacob Zuma continued to put out statements that Mandela was “critical, but stable”. Even after it was revealed, by court documents, that Mandela’s doctors had declared him brain-dead and had advised the family to authorize the turning off of the life support machines, Zuma issued a statement denying this. It is very interesting to note that the doctors themselves made no statement; they were not allowed to speak with the media, in fact. Zuma said that the doctors denied saying Mandela was brain-dead. The world’s media reported this as the doctors themselves denying that they had made the prognosis, which was not actually true.
As the weeks went by, no-one other than Zuma and the Mandela family had access to the former leader. Even US President Barack Obama had not been able to see Mandela when he visited the country. Had Mandela still been responsive at that time, as family members had been saying, it is almost certain that the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth would have been granted an audience – however brief.
The Las Vegas Guardian Express became the target of many critics. Although our articles drew many comments from ordinary South Africans who obviously believed what we were reporting – or were at least prepared to accept that we were probably telling the truth – we received many more from people who were disgusted that we continued to report Mandela’s death. We, however, were on a search for the truth; our detractors, by contrast, were merely choosing to believe what the South African authorities were reporting and what was being said in the international media – and those media reports were, themselves, nothing more than reflections of the official statements.
Our publication has been accused of cynically reporting Mandela’s death merely to attract readers and, therefore, financial profit. Such claims are preposterous, since we had dispatched a senior editor to South Africa at a cost that equaled the revenue being generated by all of our Mandela articles combined; although the Las Vegas Guardian Express is a rapidly-rising star in the media universe, we do not yet command the volume of readership that would have enabled us to garner enormous profits from our reporting. Our publication is less than two years old and is a platform for citizen journalism; our decision to report Mandela’s passing – and maintain our position, refusing to retract – could have destroyed the reputation we are building. In short, it was a decision that could have snuffed out our fledgling media site. The risk we took – together with the financial expenses we incurred – far outweigh any profits we have seen from our reporting of this story.
Our South African correspondent, Laura Oneale – a lady who, clearly, cares deeply about her country and its future – was singled out for victimization in sections of the South African media. There are, however, no major media outlets in South Africa that report anything other than that which the authorities approve; South Africa may be, technically, a Democracy, but it is still ruled by those who are Communists at heart and exercise total control, where possible. Whilst it would be unfair to say that the South African media does not dare criticize Zuma or the ruling ANC, their reporting is not totally independent of official influence.
Following Mandela’s ‘discharge’ from hospital, Oneale became the target of scathing reports in South African publications; these reports were bordering on libelous and the publications in question should have been ashamed, particularly since they, themselves, did not have one shred of evidence that Mandela still lived. They were merely repeating the official story, that this 95-year-old man – who had suffered total organ failure and was pronounced brain-dead – was, more than three months later, still allegedly in “critical, but stable, condition” – something that defies almost every law of medical science.
It is, in fact, not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that Mandela was dead and buried sometime in June, although the Las Vegas Guardian Express does not claim to have any definite proof of this, beyond small pieces of circumstantial evidence. On June 26 – the day that the Las Vegas Guardian Express reported Mandela’s passing, the Mandela family and government officials reportedly gathered in Qunu, Mandela’s home. A new access road to the Mandela house was being hastily constructed and a digger was working on a grave. It seems beyond doubt that preparations had begun in earnest for the icon’s burial, but what actually transpired is not clear. It is worth noting that these events took place before the conclusion of the Mandela family court battle to relocate the remains of the deceased Mandela children, so the grave that was being prepared was not for any of them.
More than three months have now passed since we brought Nelson Mandela’s death to the world. In that time, not one media organization can claim to have irrefutable, first-hand proof that Mandela still lives; neither the Mandela family, nor the South African government, have provided any proof that he remains a living, functioning human being.
We have never attempted to disrespect Mandela’s name or legacy. We recognize his imperfections and acknowledge that there are those who liked neither the man nor his ideology. Regardless, we humbly submit that he achieved remarkable things. We have never presumed to pass judgement upon him, nor blindly worship him. We have merely reported what no-one else has dared to report: That he has passed away and that his family and government continue to pretend otherwise, for their own gain.
We, at this point, would still, obviously, be willing to retract our reports; our integrity means more to our team than suffering the embarrassment of admitting that we were wrong. That situation, however, will not come to pass. It is time for the South African government and the living relatives of Nelson Mandela to end this charade and announce the man’s passing. If they will not do that, it is time for them to provide media access to Mandela. We do not expect the man to suffer the indignity of being surrounded by a gaggle of reporters and photographers; a short, private audience with a member of our staff would suffice. No photographs, no questions; merely an opportunity for a trusted individual to say that they have seen Mandela with their own eyes and that he remains alive.
Without such a request being granted, we maintain that we reported his death accurately and we continue to search for the truth.
An editorial by Graham J Noble on behalf of the Las Vegas Guardian Express staff.