Coffee House

The vultures waiting for Nelson Mandela’s death

26 June 2013

7:55 PM

26 June 2013

7:55 PM


I just called my pal Colin, a TV news cameraman who has been parked for days outside the Pretoria hospital where Nelson Mandela is being treated. I said, can you please tell me when the old man is going to die so that I can sort out some deadlines with the Spectator? He said, sorry, nobody here knows anything.


Then we started talking about how much this is costing world media, especially the American TV networks. Colin is under contract to one such network. Three years ago, the Americans hired two flats overlooking Pretoria’s Union Buildings and ‘filled them with millions of bucks’ worth of gear’ in preparation for the funeral that never happens. They have also bought the loyalty of several householders in Qunu, Mandela’s ancestral village, and placed several of his old friends, experts and family members on retainer. (Said retainers are probably expensive, because Mandela’s offspring have a shrewd sense of the value of their family brand.)

Every time Mandela goes into hospital, large numbers of Americans (up to 50) are flown here to take up their positions, and the South African network is similarly activated. Colin, for instance, travels to Johannesburg, hires a car and checks into a hotel, all on the network’s ticket. Since last December, he’s probably spent close to 30 days (at $2000 a day, expenses included) cooling his heels at various poolsides. And he has yet to shoot a single frame.

As Colin says, this could be the worst disaster in American media history, inter alia because all these delays are destroying the story. When the old man finally dies, a lot of punters are going to yawn and say, Mandela died? Didn’t that already happen a year ago?

Meanwhile, the military doctors tending the royal bed are saying absolutely nothing useful about the old man’s condition. All we know with certainty this afternoon is that Colin has been ordered to stand down again — perhaps because his employers are hemorraging so badly that they’re likely to die before Mandela dies.

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Show comments
  • Ashveth Thamen

    Before HE leaves us…

    After spending 27 grueling years in prison, Nelson Mandela
    asked an oppressed and impoverished majority of South Africans to forgive their
    fellow countrymen for the vile atrocities inflicted on them under the laws of
    Apartheid. He encouraged people to build a progressive, united,
    multi-cultural society for all to live in it. We are a long way from
    achieving this but with the impending passing of this great man we have a
    responsibility to ensure his legacy never dies.

    In honor of this revered world icon and before he breathes
    his last breathe. perhaps we can start to spread a vigil around the world like
    lighting lamps and candles to create awareness of Madiba’s quest for peace

    Ashveth Thamen

  • Roy

    The military doctors tending the royal bed are probably as incompetent as the ones running the country.

  • thanksdellingpole
  • Augustus

    Think Diana hysteria and multiply that by a factor of white hatred. Where the less edifying attributes of Diana were widely reported in the media, the rather more serious ballast which Mandela carried, such as the murderous legacy of his so admired Communism, will be carefully airbrushed away. A decades old personality cult has been constructed of unparalleled size, and this will soon culminate in a mind-blowing apotheosis of idolatry. Obama said: “I think he (Mandela) is a hero to the world and if and when he dies we will all know that his legacy will live on for eternity”. Obama has already declared him immortal.

    • James M

      We’re about to find out 🙁 It’s almost all sentimental tripe – Theo Dalrymple will be vindicated yet again. The Great Goddess Di was bad enough. Stand by for roads, buildings, universities, streets, and people to be renamed after the new idol – and, in a few years, for the few heretics and blasphemers who now doubt the gloriousness of the new idol to be vindicated.

  • YesWeCanFlyDrones

    We know that when people start writing the “vultures” story they’ve run out of things to say.

    The vulture stories appear after every major disaster or terrorist attack, but only a week or so later when coverage of what actually happened has run its course.

    And of course the people who complain about “vulture” crews filming at these events go home in the evening and watch it all on their televisions. The same will happen when Mandela dies.

  • thanksdellingpole

    Does anyone really care about this Mandela chap apart from the negroes in British society?

  • Matthew

    I’m afraid I find this piece rather tasteless.

  • Daniel Maris

    While I agree Mandela is a great man, this media watch is absurd. We’re just not that interested in the state of his health. Tell us when he dies.

    It’s funny though to see that the Mandela repay all this angst-ridden liberal media interest by accusing them of being racist vultures! Hilarious… you can imagine all the Guardian types being put in a complete quandary by that: ignore him and you are racist, show interest in the state of his health and you are racist…

  • Craig King

    Really! The death of an old time terrorist is not very interesting. Even a terrorist, like so many others, who has been incorporated into the panoply of good guys because he din’t opt to kill all of the previous oppressors. I note that these chaps never express any gratitude for all they inherit as if the amazing economic engine that is South Africa just happened.

    Oh well , all of the professional white hating whites will no doubt deliver eulogies and hagiographies over his ashes.

  • Span Ows

    are these the ones writing
    “Mandela a bit ill”
    “Mandela a bit better”
    “Mandela looks pale”
    “Mandela on the mend”
    “Mandela not on the mend”

    etc every day? Oh, no, that’s the BBC.


    Why prolong the inevitable? It seems to me that the likes of the BBC (as always) are so out of touch with the British public’s feeling on this non event. Really, who cares?

  • therealguyfaux

    May we be spared any controversy over whether the BBC will pay The Lion Sleeps Tonight when Madiba finally croaks?

  • D B


    • Ringstone

      Just had a play on Word – it wouldn’t take hemorraging [which I thought might be one of those nasty Americanisms] but insisted on hemorrhaging.

      It’s one level of unprofessional when a journalist doesn’t fact check, but it’s just taking the piss when they can’t even be bothered to spell check!

  • swatnan

    Leave the man to die in peace. Leave the eulogies till later, and the tussle over his legacy.

  • Ian Walker

    “Oh look at those silly Americans, waiting for an old man to die,” wrote the journalist, as filler copy because he’s waiting for an old man to die.

  • HookesLaw

    So lets see… the press is a three ring circus.
    Right… so lets be grateful that they see themselves beyond independent regulation.

  • sir_graphus

    Given that his death could swamp the papers for at least a week, the more we can defuse it now the better.