Who speaks for Madiba?

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

IN HIND­SIGHT it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore some­one over­stepped the mark on the life – and in this case death – of Nel­son Man­dela. For­mer SANDF Sur­geon Gen­eral Ve­jay Ram­lakan stands accused by the late icon’s widow, Graça Machel, and his grand­son, Mandla Man­dela, of hav­ing bro­ken pro­fes­sional codes of con­duct in par­tic­u­lar doc­tor-pa­tient con­fi­den­tial­ity for hav­ing penned a mem­oir of the states­man and his de­clin­ing med­i­cal health.

The book was billed as a bid to set the record straight over what was an ex­tremely con­tro­ver­sial chap­ter of Man­dela’s life, with many feel­ing that the mil­i­tary health prac­ti­tion­ers had been in­ept among a wealth of other con­cerns. It was said to have been writ­ten with the sup­port of Man­dela’s fam­ily. Ex­cept, ob­vi­ously, not every­one’s sup­port. The ques­tions to­day are two-fold; the right to pa­tient-doc­tor con­fi­den­tial­ity and just who speaks on be­half of the Man­dela fam­ily or, more per­ti­nently, Nel­son Man­dela.

The poli­cies around med­i­cal health con­fi­den­tial­ity were al­ways in­tended for lesser mor­tals, the prob­lem is that Madiba was on the other end of the scale – there is in­cred­i­ble in­ter­est by the pub­lic in de­tail­ing the minu­tiae of his life. Whether that’s enough grounds to be con­sid­ered pub­lic in­ter­est re­mains to be seen. Like­wise, if the pa­tient-doc­tor con­fi­den­tial­ity was broached with the ap­proval of his fam­ily – or at least one fac­tion of the deeply riven clan – is this enough to pro­tect the au­thor, and his pub­lish­ers, from any pos­si­ble reper­cus­sions?

In the end, only the Health Pro­fes­sions Coun­cil of South Africa can rule on this defini­tively. It is an is­sue that needs clar­ity though, be­cause the ad­vent of so­cial me­dia has not only democra­tised how we in­ter­act with me­dia, it has also thrown the very con­ven­tions around pub­lish­ing, and pro­tec­tions we de­pend on, out of the win­dow in the process.

The other is­sue is as sim­ple; who speaks for Man­dela and his legacy? It’s a thorny is­sue be­cause Madiba is a brand, al­ready com­mod­i­fied to a large ex­tent and – as such – ripe for fa­tal tar­nish­ing through un­wise com­mer­cially-driven ven­tures.

Some­one will have to grasp the net­tle – but that will re­quire the broader fam­ily ac­tu­ally speak­ing as one.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.