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December 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Plans by the media to cover the eventual death of Nelson Mandela have touched off a competitive clash among news organizations in South Africa and a cultural clash between the media and the country’s general population. Mandela, who is 93, has not appeared in public in nearly 18 months, and some media organizations have already staked out the area around his residence in Qunu with closed-circuit television cameras, according to the Times of South Africa, which identified the organizations as the Associated Press and Reuters. The AP acknowledged that it, “along with other media,” had preparedness plans in place in the event of Mandela’s passing and that the cameras would not be switched on except in the case of a “major event” involving the former South African leader. “We had similar preparedness outside the Vatican ahead of Pope John Paul II’s passing,” an AP spokesman told Britain’s Guardian newspaper. But those plans, as they become increasingly competitive, are also becoming increasingly controversial. The Guardian reported that some broadcasters have spent “fortunes” building temporary studios, renting prime locations, pre-booking hotels, and signing up pundits. One local journalist told the Guardian about attempts to book “every helicopter in the vicinity to stop others [from] getting the helicopter shot.” Although TV organizations often pool their resources to cover such events, the journalist said that is not the case with this story. “It is considered a huge competitive event,” he said. But Donald Mothoa, a lifelong member of Mandela’s ANC party, told the Guardian that he regards the media preparations as offensive. “Culturally, it’s wrong,” he said. We don’t do that. We wait for a person to die, then we start the preparations.”