Diary of a mad journalist

Camping outside Mandela’s hospital with the media circus has the makings of a reality TV show.

Have you ever seen the movie by Tyler Perry called ‘Diary of a mad black woman’?

If somebody ever makes a film about journalists staking out the hospital where Nelson Mandela is in … I think they should call it ‘Diary of a mad black journalist’.

I will explain why:

I’ve been outside the hospital for 11 days. This is how I spent my second last day:

* It is mid morning and nearly visiting hour. Our internal body clocks go ‘ping’ reminding us to get ready. Mandela’s family members will start driving in soon. When they arrive a few camera people take photographs. After days of the same routine this is not interesting anymore.

* Without fail during the day some journalists saying: “we have heard from their sources that Mandela isn’t getting better”.  Of course, one day someone will be right but as of now, the government and family say he seems to be recovering. 

* I move away from the ‘excitable’ journalists. I haven’t seen them before which probably means they must be new arrivals. They’ have come with too much energy. In a day or two they will get into the groove of how things work here. We don’t need anyone fanning unnecessary flames.

* I make my routine call to Mac Maharaj in the Presidency who basically tells me “when there is anything new to report I will let you know”.

* I look up. Mandela’s family members are coming to take flowers and cards left by well wishers. We assume they are going to show them to Mandela.

* The camera-men (mainly big manly looking men) push and shove each other to get that perfect shot. It is quite a circus but the only excitement we have had in days. I am wearing boots with heels so I move away from the madness. I am not going to joing the scuffle and risk twisting ankle or breaking a leg. I have things to do later – like order lunch.

* When you are parked on the side of the road for days, lunch is option ‘A’ junk food. Option ‘B’ is even more junk food. So we order a pizza … again.

* Remember the unnecessary panic journalists get into I mentioned earlier? It happens again. This time religious leaders are allowed into the hospital to pray for Nelson Mandela. You can imagine what some journalists thought, “could this be the end – is he gone?” Some even run around to try and get more information. When the priests eventually leave it seems Madiba is alive. It is another moment when my blood pressure is unnecessarily elevated.

* A curious group of people walk past us and inspect the broadcast equipment sprawled out on the side of the road. A few start taking pictures. Once again the media is the story.

And I understand their curiosity.

Journalists are a spectacle out here – disturbing the peace of a usually quieter neighbourhood in Pretoria.

So for those wondering what it is we journalists are actually doing here – that’s pretty much it.

It’s the job and it can get monotonous and crazy.

Combine all of these factors, add a little fiction and you really could have a Hollywood blockbuster or a reality show.

Luckily it’s not too late to salvage my sanity.

My colleague is on her way from Johannesburg to swap places with me as I am taking a little break.

If I come back I really hope it won’t be for too long.

I hope Madiba recovers well enough and goes home soon.

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