For the time I have been a media person, I have learnt a few things that can be defined as the constants.
I have realised that media work calls for full dedication and that in most cases, your friends and family will never understand what it means to be a journalist.
For example, the designated working hours are almost useless because on many days they will be stretched simply because the story you are working on lacks one small bit and the person with that bit has already told you he is in a meeting and you should call him after.
Then on another day you do your work properly, dot all the Is and cross all the Ts then something happens that requires you to redo almost everything. That is precisely what happened on the night that South African President Jacob Zuma appeared on our TV screens to announce that Nelson Mandela had passed away.
The news found me having my supper and I watched it go cold as I struggled to watch TV, check different websites and monitor social media all at the same time. By the time I got the sense that my body needed some sleep it was close to 4am!
A news event like the death of a person of Mandela’s stature simply means that so many stories will be pushed further off the news radar for some time. That is why DSTv simply chose to create a special channel dedicated to the man often referred to simply as Madiba.
By the next day, that face of an old man with large traces of grey hair in his afro graced almost all front page newspapers and magazines and took up more airtime on radio and TV. Being the social media era, Mandela’s name has been trending since that announcement by Zuma.
Besides all the stories about the great man’s life we are being bombarded by hundreds of photos of Mandela himself with someone else. When he retired from politics a lot of his time was spent giving in to people dying to have a piece of him in form of a photo. The most embarrassing being the one he took with current ANC leaders at a time he was clearly frail.
Mandela is the real epitome of a global icon and writing about him is not something I feel qualified to do. The little I can say is that death is just an event in this man’s life. He is not really gone; he is going to remain with us in so many ways and for a very long time.
I may not have lived to see the man up close and pose for the mandatory photo but I still got to see him with my own eyes. On being released from jail, Mandela embarked on a tour that took him mainly to the countries that had offered a hand to the struggle against apartheid.
In 1990 he visited Uganda and at that time I was a P.3 pupil at St. Savio Junior School, Kisubi. Back then our classes would be interrupted each time a visiting head of state or big person (Mandela was not president by then) visited Uganda. We would leave class and line up along Entebbe road armed with Ugandan flags and flags of the visitor’s country.
What I remember most is that when the presidential convoy got to Kisubi, it slowed down and President Museveni emerged from the open roof first and with his other hand, he helped Nelson Mandela to get up and wave to us. That was my moment with Madiba.
Mandela went on to become president of South Africa and by the time he left, he had set the bar so high that other African leaders can basically just talk about how he inspired them not much on what they did with the inspiration.
At the end of the day Mandela stands out precisely because his story is one of perseverance, forgiveness and more importantly living up to certain principles. That is why one satirical newspaper simply summed up the man’s legacy as ‘The only politician we shall truly miss.’
We should thank Madiba for fighting the good fight and fighting well. I am sure wherever he is, he must already be enjoying a hearty chat with the likes of Chris Hani, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Oliver Tambo as well as Lumumba, Sankara, and Nkrumah to mention but a few.