Of News and Newshounds Mandela and the Media’s ‘Walk of Shame’

June 16, 2013
Reporters outside Mandela's hospital

Reporters outside Mandela’s hospital

By Haru Mutasa
June 16 2013
Reporters from around the world are packing their bags to go home with no story as Mandela’s health appears to recover.
The locals residents here in Pretoria are calling it “The Walk of Shame”.
Some media houses have started packing up their broadcast equipment and are heading home.
As each days passes, it seems Nelson Mandela’s health is improving and the onslaught of journalists who have been camping outside the hospital for over a week is looking more and more ridiculous.
I will never forget my ‘AHA moment’.
It’s a warm day in Pretoria and I am sitting on a camping chair by the side of the road waiting for any kind of news.
Four good-looking guys stop their expensive looking car, roll down the window and say to me:
“My sister, the Mandela is not going anywhere. There is a party down the road. Please come and join us?”
Then when tourists on holiday and residents of Pretoria started taking pictures and video of the media contingent hanging around the hospital things felt a little strange.
Depending on how old you are, you have done this camping out thing more times than others.
For some camping out somewhere whenever South Africa’s first black president is sick has become expected.
For journalists flying in from other countries it’s a chance to visit beautiful South Africa.
So maybe it’s something new for some of them.
For those based in the country, well, it’s just become routine.
But as each day drags on, we start to ask ourselves:
“Maybe Madiba will be alright and go home?”
I’d like to believe most of us want him around for as long as possible. I do.
So, as some journalists begin to pack up their equipment, people living in the area hurl insults like “what are you doing here in the first place?” or “who told you vultures he was dying this time?”, and my personal favourite, “that’s what your parents sent you to school for – now you look like imbeciles – stupid vultures with egg on your faces.”
I’d like to believe most of us you see here lining up on the street don’t want Tata Madiba to go anytime soon.
But we have a job to do – and do it we will.
So chances are some of us will be back everytime there is a global panic about his health.
Still, as I see my colleagues in the industry pack up one by one and leave, I know my walk of shame is coming soon.
I wonder if the invite to that party is still open?
Haru Mutasa is a South Africa-based correspondent for Al Jazeera English.


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