Handling of news about Madiba shows lessons were learned - Times LIVE
   
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Handling of news about Madiba shows lessons were learned

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2012-02-27 00:18:03.0

The Times Editorial: News of former president Nelson Mandela's hospitalisation, and renewed speculation about the state of the world leader's health, has dominated the news in recent days.

This time, however - unlike during last year's public relations disaster when Mandela was hospitalised - the government has been quick to issue updates about his stay in hospital.

Previously, no one seemed willing to take control of managing the news about Mandela, an enduring global icon.

Perhaps the ANC and the government underestimated the level of interest that Madiba continues to excite in South Africa and elsewhere.

David Smith, the SA correspondent for The Guardian newspaper in the UK, yesterday wrote about the effect Mandela's eventual death would have on our nation.

"It is the day South Africans dread more than any other, and it is not a question of if, but when. The death of Nelson Mandela will shake the nation to its core; the fact that death in old age does not fit the proper definition of 'tragedy' will not console the millions who grew up with him as a constant, consoling presence."

It is precisely because we know that Mandela is frail, that he will not be with us forever, that we hold our collective breath each time he goes to hospital amid rumours of ill health.

Mandela has remained a constant presence in South African politics long after leaving active service. He remains the father of our new, post-apartheid nation and his presence - however much he no longer occupies a visible, public space - offers us comfort.

To imagine a South Africa without him is, for many, an unthinkable sorrow.

The way the Presidency has taken control of managing the news of his hospitalisation is therefore a welcome change

It shows that lessons were learned from those past disasters.

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