Nelson Mandela is in the hospital with pneumonia. This is all I know about Nelson Mandela’s current state. I don’t know how long he’s been there, if he’s even still there, how his health is in general – I don’t even know how old he is. But I’m Welsh, and I live near Cape Town, and this is apparently reason enough to be contacted by BBC Wales and asked if I’d be willing to provide my phone number and if I’d be available on short notice for an interview with a journalist coming over with a film crew.
The conversation went a bit like this:
“Hi, I’m from BBC Wales. Can we interview you about Mandela?”
“I don’t really know anything about Mandela other than that he’s in hospital.”
“Well, what would be great is if you could speak with your friends in Cape Town, and ask them what Mandela means to them? How much effect would losing him have on the country?”
“I don’t actually have any friends in Cape Town. I’ve moved around a lot, I work online, and most of my friends are back home in Europe. My partner works in a multi-cultural large office in Cape Town though, and he says the fact that Mandela’s in hospital isn’t even a topic of discussion there. Look, here’s a link to a local group I’m a part of on Facebook. If you ask there you may get more helpful answers about what Mandela means to locals.”
“Okay, but can we have your phone number just in case the journalist wants to speak with you anyway? [Journalist name-dropping] is coming to Cape Town on Monday, you see – filming Robben Island etc. Any help you could give would be much appreciated.”
“Sorry, no. Like I said, I don’t know anything about the situation with Mandela, I don’t have any local friends and I don’t involve myself with local news. There really won’t be anything I can contribute and there’s little point getting a phone call from someone just to say ‘sorry, I know nothing!’.”
Jaco wanted me to be too helpful.
‘Was it his health you were concerned about, or the assassination attempts? Or were you after the political slant of the plan to reintroduce apartheid after he dies? He just came out as being gay – it was the public outcry that drove him to illness. Did you know that he’s Barack Obama’s real father?’
I’ll admit, I was sorely tempted.
Get well soon, Mandela.