by Gill Moodie (@GrubstreetSA)I was very touched – as I’m sure were many other viewers  – by the interview on eNCA last Friday by Annika Larsen with former Rivonia trialist Denis Goldberg after he visited Nelson Mandela in hospital.

I don’t think I am only South African hack – or ordinary citizen – who is mystified by the lack of official information from the presidency and its chief spokesman, Mac Maharaj, on the how our former president is doing in hospital… especially after the confusion last week when Mandela family court papers filed at the Mthatha high court claimed that doctors had advised that life support be switched off.

Goldberg said he wanted to set the record straight – and that he does in this interview!

He talks sympathetically and frankly about Mandela being responsive but gravely  ill – but that there has been no general organ failure so there is still hope that Mandela may recover. When Goldberg says at the end of the interview: “What a fighter. What a fighter, that man is”, I don’t think I was only viewer who got teary-eyed.

And so it was left to Goldberg to give  the nation information that we can trust, cutting through the machinations of the family  and aloofness of the presidency.

To speak simply and honestly about Mandela’s condition  – how hard can that be, Mac?

Did that nation fall apart after Goldberg did so? No, I think we were comforted by his honesty and humanity.

If you wish to control the flow of information, then control it with intelligence and compassion (for both Mandela and the nation).

Journalists covering Mandela have told me that they are constantly phoning the presidency for updates or confirmation of mandelathings they are picking up but are usually told that they must wait for a statement – and that the presidency will make a statement when the time is right.

Why in the world the presidency doesn’t just hold a daily briefing and be honest about what is going on is beyond me?

Even if it’s only to say there is no change, it would be better than keeping us all wondering and worried, especially with the bizarre fight going on with the Mandela clan serving  to confuse things.

The presidency’s feckless management of the information around this month-long saga (yes, Mandela has been in hospital for that long!) points to a lack of depth and quality in that highest office of the government, a cursory understanding of communication and a complete misreading of the mood of the nation.

In the meantime, thank you Mr Goldberg!

– SA’s leading media commentator, Gill Moodie, offers intelligence on media – old and new. Reprinted from her site Grubstreet.

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