Covering the loss of Mandela: A journalist's story

Phindiwe Nkosi on her coverage of Nelson Mandela’s passing

Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss… This is the moment of our deepest sorrow. Our nation has lost its greatest son… This is indeed the moment of our deepest sorrow.

Those were the words from the address to the nation by South African President, Jacob Zuma, concerning the departure of South Africa’s first black democratically elected President, Nelson Mandela on national television during the early hours of the night on December 5, 2013.

Mourners gather outside Mandela’s Johannesburg residence while international media work in the background.

Mourners gather outside Mandela’s Johannesburg residence while international media work in the background.

Phindiwe takes a well earned break.

Phindiwe takes a well earned break.

As a South African writer, I feel I was born to tell stories. It is not just a job, but a higher innate calling entrenched inside of me. Just like the African people who mourn in songs and danced with tears in their eyes outside the former president’s home in Houghton, Johannesburg for the entire ten day mourning period; I shared in not just the nations grief but with the world’s because I knew that Mandela did not just belong to South Africans, but the entire global village.

Newsmodo provided an ideal opportunity make the most of my stance as a professional freelance writer at the scene, by reporting to the masses. Within minutes of hearing about the loss of our former president, I was driving to his home in Houghton. Newsmodo was quick and professional over our series of telephone calls and emails.

The week was filled with interviews at unusual hours to make up for the time difference between South Africa and Australia. Newsmodo managed to use my writing, arrange for live phone interviews from the former president’s home as well as a studio recording from Johannesburg with Australia’s premier 24 hour news network.

My week as an freelance international correspondent involved a lot of sleepless nights, asking questions, taking photos, writing articles and interacting with several local and international media contacts at the scene to stay abreast.

Mandela’s Neighbour, Muziw Tanti, remembers meeting Mandela.

Mandela’s Neighbour, Muziw Tanti, remembers meeting Mandela.

I told an African story. A story about Africans singing and dancing in the rain, considered to be a good omen. People wept while dancing and held multi-denominational street prayer meetings. As I wrote, something inside of me healed.

There was constant reassurance, encouragement and professionalism from the Newsmodo team which understood that it was not just a business transaction, but a period of utter grief. I felt privileged to be afforded the chance to tell the story of a South African legend. In the end, it was not just another loss, but a celebration of the modest, Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent almost 27 years in jail for his pursuit of democratic freedom for my country.

 

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Phindiwe Nkosi has a decade of writing experience coupled by post graduate studies from the University of Pretoria. Her experience ranges from working as a local and international freelance writer, journalist (newspapers, broadcast and magazines), travel writer, speech writer, marketing and communications manager, blogger and ghost writer.


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