Rod MacKenzie
Rod MacKenzie

The new morality? Selling Mandela’s ‘funeral viewing rights’

Everything in our age has become a product. Now the news has broken that television rights to view Nelson Mandela’s funeral have allegedly been bought by the SABC, I have realised, even more, that everything is marketable. Is there any longer a distinction between the marketable and the sacrosanct?

If they were collected, warehouses would overflow with authentic splinters of wood and ceramic shards from Jesus Christ’s crucifix and grail, not to mention all the genuine wood and preserved leaves collected from Gautama Siddhartha’s moment of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.

Though responsible for the death of countless millions, Chairman Mao’s tomb and other paraphernalia in the mausoleum in Beijing are a typical tourist destination. The usual touristy bric-a-brac associated with him is available for purchase all over China, the “little red book”, T-shirts, mugs … and he is still revered by many. My previous maid referred to him as the “god-man” with a look of awe on her face, then briskly shut up and carried on with her chores.

Although Mandla Mandela’s supposed sale of the exclusive TV rights to the iconic granddaddy’s funeral was a news-breaker … come on, how many of us were truly surprised? I sort of grinned in bitter delight over my morning tea as I read the news from here in Shanghai, but I was far from surprised.

In fact, I fail to see selling the rights to view Madiba’s funeral to a TV company as a moral issue at all. Heck, if I was at all famous, I would happily sell the rights to view my funeral and my wife could take the proceeds, after the tax which any opportunistic, self-respecting government, would swiftly impose, having passed the required new tax law. (Hmmm, how does the tax law work in the case of Mandla Mandela’s alleged, clandestine sale … seeing it was clandestine?) I would rest in peace, knowing the missus could live out her twilight days with the dignity only cash flow now sadly affords us in the post-post-modern world. The notion sounds like a fresh, untapped market. Anyone for Oops, that was a conspiratorial Freudian slip of sorts. I meant

Instead of getting indignant about it, Helen Zille should get on the funeral bandwagon; unfortunately she won’t be worth as much. Is the purchase of Mr Mandela’s funeral TV rights distasteful? To me it is, but in this world we inhabit, tastes are changing, becoming ever more mercenary. The commercial sign in language, in all our discourses, has greatly replaced the transcendental, consigning words like sacredness, honour and taboo to the archives of semantic history.

I am in fact puzzled by my own response, where I do not see purchasing funeral-viewing rights as “disturbing” or “immoral” at all, as evinced in the links attached to this blog. The idea is a new one, to me anyway. Perhaps I am just used to the way various leaders and their families behave with partisan, monetary interests worldwide.

The ceremony marking the passing on of South Africa’s greatest icon, and one of the world’s, is going to be a huge event and many are going to buy the rights for various products that will appear overnight (oh they were long lying in wait): commemoratory T-shirts, mugs, cups, jerseys, books, god knows what else. How does one stop all of that and is it immoral? Surely not. Distasteful? To me, yes.

However, where the lack of morality lurks is how is it that the grandson, Mandla, came to be deemed as the sole heir who can determine the rights to sell Madiba’s funeral TV and film viewing rights without the rest of the family — apparently — knowing. How the family settles the dispute is going to be an interesting one to follow. Given the world we live in, one way or another, if not Mandla Mandela, then others are going to exploit the event of the great man’s wake.


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    • nash

      these lies are so wrong on so many levels ?

    • Pastor Ray Mac Oily

      … everything is for sale Rod! In his letter to Mandela, Breytenbach calls Mandela, Money Deala! Soos ons in die Bybel se ” Wat jy saai sal jy maai”

      Glory and Viva

    • Richard P

      If it could be done for Jade Goody, why not Madiba?

      Maybe they will even sell seats at the funeral – the closer to the coffin, the more expensive…

    • Alan2

      This is just so distasteful on so many levels. Apart from the perfectly valid points that you raise about “ownership” of Madiba’s funeral, the poor man isn’t even dead yet! And how did the SABC afford the rights bearing in mind their current state of arrears with suppliers? And why should anyone have “rights” to Madiba’s funeral at all? Surely as an ex-president and great leader he will get a state funeral, so hasn’t the taxpayer already bought the “rights” to see this televised freely? And on a personal level…. What sort of pondscum would sell the rights to his grandfather’s funeral?

    • Benzol

      TV rights is big business. Did Louis Luyt not do something for Rugby at a good price and SABC crying foul? A funeral is like a reality show and more real than most of those types of show. Anybody remember Diana’s funeral? What a show it was!

      If my father was such a glorified person, worthy of a state funeral -gratis vir niks- I would probably try to negotiate the best deal when asked to sell the privacy of the event. Even asking for advanced payment so that the man could enjoy the benefits of his funeral while still alive.

      I see him raising his glass with the finest whiskey money can buy: “here is to my funeral, don’t know when it is, but it sure is coming” Then lighting a top of the range Havanna, watching the smoke as it curls away with a happy smile on his face.
      What a way to go and looking forward to the trip!

    • Phillipa Lipinsky

      Are you that desperate for people to view your blog that you can speak so candidly about the impending death of another human being.

      The people who expect others to die simply because they are old might be surprised to be outlived by them (old people i.e.)

    • Gerry

      Well, what does Madiba himself say? To echo Richard P – Jade Goody did it…

      BUT Jade did it herself, not her kids or grandkids. If Nelson decides his funeral is for sale, then he has the right to do it. But I don’t think little Mandla is entirely on the straight and narrow here, and looking to cash in on granpa croaking!

      So, “Mandela” has become a commoddity, has it? Jeez, wake up Gerry, its been a marketable trademark for years! A funeral will just be the flagship event.

    • Noma

      I find the idea distasteful and absurd. Call me fake traditionalist but I find it difficult to understand that a family member can do this when the person concerned is still alive irrespective of who he is. I agree everything has gone commercial but does that relieve us of our responsibility to care, honour and respect?

      Maybe we should start saying ‘Money is everything’ and stop fooling ourselves.

      On the other hand, the SABC is in trouble financially, they just had audience with the Minister and they still can afford to splash money on these ‘rights’ – this is confusing.

    • http://Thoughtleader Mahlakaumane

      This just serves to affirm my suspicion that Mandela has been so commodified that he cannot even use his name without the danger of litigation.So next time you greet him, do not be suprised that he may refuse to ackonowledge himself.
      Imagine this…..
      You:Good morning Mr. Mandela.
      Mandela: Shhhhh, keep it low, the foundation may take me to the cleaners.Is my nephew here.
      You: No, i saw him at the SABC chatting to Snuki Sikalala.
      Mandela: what, my fate is sealed
      You: What do you mean.
      Mandela: Snuki buys anything from anybody who dares to sell anything

    • Richard P

      At the end of the day, Madiba’s funeral will be SA’s last great international hurrah (assuming he holds out until after the Football World Cup), after which it will slink from the international stage as “just another African country”, with some old timers remembering that it “coulda been a contender”.

    • siyabonga ntshingila

      Mandla denies selling the rights.

      But hey. Believe what helps you sleep at night.

    • Dave Harris

      Another strange article with a disturbing title. Rod, it seems like you can’t wait to to dance on Mandela’s grave. Can you at least have the decency to give our Madiba the respect he deserves while he is still alive?

    • Richard P

      @ Dave Harris

      Rod is commenting on those who seek to profit from Mandela’s funeral, not Mandela himself.

      Next time, engage your brain before you engage your sense of outrage.

    • Phillipa Lipinsky

      @Richard P: “At the end of the day, Madiba’s funeral will be SA’s last great international hurrah”

      It is really unimaginable that anyone can be so diabolical as to regard the death of another human being (and a man of integrity at that) as cause for celebration. I know that some find it very titilating and amusing to discuss the death of living persons they don’t like but I urge you people; please, let’s have some respect for human dignity and human life. Please, talk about something else?
      I’m sure that both you (Richard P) and Rod would not be flattered if someone talked about pissing in your graves while the wroms feast on your wretched and rotting bodies.

    • Old, female, paleface

      Phillipa Lipinsky –
      ” Given the world we live in, one way or another, if not Mandla Mandela, then others are going to exploit the event of the great man’s wake. ” 2009 !

      As the “GREATEST SPIRIT” in our time – was exploited by the ANC a few months ago – why not claim sole rights through the grandson, now an important member of the party.
      He is “their” possession.
      It will be “their” great day of pomp and circumstance – not the nation’s.
      Hamba gashle TATA – will be in the heart of every Safrican rainbow person –
      THE greatest African and World Icon – a man of Reconciliation and Peace for all.
      Apart from the Little Man with the Greatest Soul –
      The Arch – Tata is the last of a special, unique African.

      Do you really know Africa and South Africans that you can voice your superior East European disapproval of my people ?
      A mind so brainwashed and conditioned to responses ?
      Thanks you are the perfect example of what awaits ANC adherents and sycophants – in the future tyranny to come. Political Education!

      We have a saying “Ag, yes, no, well fine!”
      When you understand the deep meaning of that phrase of helplessness in RSA –
      then say your say and criticise my people.
      Until then – comment with logic and reason.
      Free speech is our hard won right and you will not silence us and most of all – me.
      Most of all – not by YOU.

    • ex-Zimbabwe

      We should build a bridge to get over ourselves. Don’t we realise Madiba won’t be here for ever? We should celebrate him and do everything we can for him while he’s alive – send him a postcard, give money to his charities, or just make an effort to be kind to someone who needs it, in honour of him. When he passes away from us, it’s going to be big news and everyone will want a piece of it, but if he and his family can live with the celebrity, as they’ve done for years, then so can we.

      Don’t people realise how badly SABC was hurt by their stuff-up over the PSL? They lost the broadcasting rights to their competition and it still stings them. Personally, I’m just relieved that they haven’t let this shoe drop as well. A strong SABC benefits all of us.

      The morality of it is part of a wider debate about the power of the media but this is definitely something that needs to be sorted out and it can’t wait until the sad day comes. No one is dancing on anyone’s grave here, though South Africans might want to ask questions about why anyone other than the SABC would be offered the right to cover such a profound moment in our national history. It’s no more than we expect of our public broadcaster.

    • Rod MacKenzie

      Alan2 – I hear you. You have put it so well. Let’s see how the can of worms opens up.
      This is a fresh, hectic level of corruption.
      I was amazed by the news itself, but that a family member would do this did nit surprise me at all.
      What has or will Madiba say anything?
      I still stand by the fact that if I was famous I would sell my funeral viewing rights, because …. because… I refuse to take myself too seriously, even unto death?

    • brigs

      It would be nice to think, funerals would be above capitalist money making grubby paws types. But I am a realist.

    • Benzol

      @PL: “It is really unimaginable that anyone can be so diabolical as to regard the death of another human being as cause for celebration.”

      Death is a reality. The Roman Catholic church celebrates death in its rituals….”in paradiso deducant te angeli” (may the angels guide you into paradise..)is the hymn at the end of the funeral ceremony.

      As the son of an undertaker, I can assure you that many people talk and joke about death long before they are there. My father had some joyful sessions with his colleagues when arranging his own funeral details, drinkies included. My mother -at the age of 97- told me repeatedly that she looked forward to her death so she could be with her husband again. She died peacefully without a struggle.
      Talking about death has little to do with human dignity but all to do with human life or the end of it. And..yes, most people are afraid to bring up the issue.

    • Richard P

      @ Phillipa Lipinsky

      No one on this thread is regarding Mandela’s death as a cause for celebration (he is one of the very few members of the ANC for whom I have profound respect). However, his funeral will be a major international event and a celebration of his LIFE (as well as an occasion to mourn his death).

      My point was that other than the Football World Cup, that is likely to be the last occasion on which SA is the focus of positive international attention.

      As for what people do to my grave, I really couldn’t give a toss. I will be dead at the time and well past caring.

    • Kit

      Are we to assume that Dave and Phillipa, conjoined in an interestingly anglo fear of talking about death – as if it will rise up at the speaking of its name – don’t have life insurance? I’d imagine with kids it’s a bit of a necessity to have at least something, even a funeral policy so they don’t get left with that stress.

      But whatever doubts I may have about (a) the veracity of this tale and (b) how exactly such an agreement could come about if it were true, as far as I know there is no prohibition against planning one’s own funeral nor that of one’s relatives while they are still alive.

      Some people carry organ donor cards, some discuss whether they wish to be cremated or buried, take out life insurance policies, make wills, take out funeral policies…yes, even take out funeral policies on the lives of their parents. Clearly Dave/Phillipa doesn’t watch daytime TV. (Me neither usually but an unfortunate bout of the flu left me unable to reach the remote some time back so I dozed through the drone of such advertising.)

      But one thing I do agree with them on is that it’s still strange and maybe distasteful. Who is actually being distasteful depends on whether it’s a made-up story or in any way true. It’s probably not Rod, although he’s as distasteful as the rest of us (nah, more :)) at times surely.

    • Richard P

      @ Old, female, paleface

      “superior East European disapproval”

      I very much doubt that Phillippa is Polish.

      First, and rather obviously, neither of the first names she uses is Polish (i.e. Phillipa or Gretchen).

      Secondly, I have yet to meet a Polish person (apart from having visited Krakow, I count one as a close friend and have met many others here in the UK), who shares her deluded views (or who has a good word to say about Communism).

      Thirdly, her language simply does not ring true for someone brought up in Poland.

      I have previously expressed my doubts as to whether she (and Dave Harris) are genuine people expressing genuine views. There is something just too superficial (witness their gushing OTT praise of Dale Williams’ trite blogs) and stereotypical (they make Mike Sutcliffe look three-dimensional) about their views.

      The trick is not to let them annoy you, but instead to regard them with contemptious amusement.

    • Phillipa Lipinsky

      @Richard P: You have respect for Mandela? Please! Who do you think actually buys that. You speak with such undisguised contempt about the man.

      It’s nice to know you’re so optimistic about your death. I wonder how soon it might be. My guess is that it may be sooner than Madiba’s (whom you are are so obviously keen on seeing dead). That’s life, mr P. Remember in Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones when Miss Allworthy’s husband (what’s his-face?) was eagerly expecting the death of Allworthy (in the hopes of inheriting his fortune), seeing himself much younger and fitter, he was certain to outlive him. Then, wonder of wonders, he slipped and fell and DIED while taking a walk in the garden one afternoon. Trust me life does imitate art. I know it’s not the best classic novel out there but it does make a point. (I’m curious however as to what you expect to gain from MADIBA’S DEATH).

    • Richard P

      @ Phillipa Lipinsky


      My contempt is for those who would seek to gain commercially from Mandela’s death (like the ANC), not the man himself.

      I expect to gain nothing from Mandela’s death, but I will mourn the loss of a titan who represented what SA could have been, but was destined never to achieve.

      You appear to wish me an early death. How do you propose to achieve that? Will you be consulting a sangoma to cast a spell of death on me? Pray do tell. :)

    • Dave Harris

      @Richard P
      From your snide remarks to your futile attempts at dampening the optimism of the younger generation, its pretty clear that you are one unhappy curmudgeon living in your self created hellhole there in the UK. Heck, maybe an early death shows Phillipa’s sympathy for you Richard P.
      BTW. Be careful what you wish for – those sangomas are known to cast some pretty powerful spells. Even Rod Mackenzie, did not take my advice on having his tokolshe exorcised by one those great Chinese healers – this blog is a window into the sad state of his possessed mind. 😉

    • Phillipa Lipinsky

      @Richard P.: You are just too smart for your own pants! Really. So you suppose that all people from Poland have “Polish” names? How very silly. My cousin’s name is Roland and he is Polish, and I have quite a few relatives with English names,and ideed with English surnames. You are quite amazingly simple. Anyway, who cares what YOU think?

    • Kit

      Well, I see the standard of debate has risen supremely in the last couple of days, what with the curmudgeonly death eaters versus the mean-spirited optimists slugging away here.

      So Dave/Phillipa/Dale (if he’s reading), do you guys have life insurance? It’s a reasonably pertinent although possibly too-personal question. Given your apparently immense risk tolerance and optimism (interestingly juxtaposed with a fear of the supernatural and of death itself), it would be a terrible contradiction if you did. But given the fact that I think you all claim to have children, it would be a truly awful oversight if you didn’t.

      But given the general tone of this discussion, one can understand why satire is so reviled. An interesting combination of literalists (everything must be ‘pure truth’ – whatever that is, since everyone has their own version) and desperate substandard satirists (everything must be funny otherwise we’d all cry ourselves to sleep at night). I usually fall into the latter category, although certain things shouldn’t ever be funny. Death itself is not one of those untouchable subjects, death of an actual person might well be. Which is why I find the supernatural threats and pissing on graves and worms remarks aimed in hopeful tone at individuals pretty much as revolting as allegedly selling your famous grandad’s funeral rights for a lot of cash if he didn’t know. Hearing the same stuff in stereo doesn’t help make it more entertaining.

    • Richard P

      @ Dave Harris,

      Other than that I can be a curmudgeon (online only) about the state of SA, you could not be more wrong about me.

      As for sangomas, they are all quacks and charlatans preying on the ignorant and superstitious. Get them to cast all the death spells on me you like; I’ll be around to laugh at them (and you) for years to come.

    • Richard P

      @Phillipa Lipinsky

      Well, one would expect Polish people born in Poland of Polish parents to have Polish names.

      I have yet to hear of a native Polish woman called “Phillipa”, so I assume one of 3 things:

      1) Only your ancestors were Polish but you still insist on describing yourself as Polish (whereas you are in fact American)

      2) You “adopted” your first name in the same manner as Chinese people adopt “English” first names for the benefit of Westerners, and your real first name is Ewa or somesuch

      3) You are a fictitional creation of some deranged satirist.

      I think 3) is the truth.

    • Richard P

      @ Kit

      “find the supernatural threats and pissing on graves and worms remarks aimed in hopeful tone at individuals pretty much as revolting”

      As the recipient of those threats and statements, I find them amusing rather than offensive, as they simply reflect back on those who make them.

      Anyone who takes Dave, Phillipa (or Dale for that matter) seriously, is giving them a status which they simply do not deserve.

      Personally, I think the idea of a sponored funeral is hilarious and think there is much humorous mileage to be made from it.

      “The flames of this cremation were ignited with a Lion Match”

      Or even televised adbreaks during the funeral of someone sufficiently well known to pull in the punters.

    • Rod MacKenzie

      Kit – “It’s probably not Rod, although he’s as distasteful as the rest of us (nah, more :)) at times surely.” I am definitely more distasteful but want to be remembered as making an art form of it :)

      Richard P – “The flames of this cremation were ignited with a Lion Match” damn I envy that one.

      “Coffin wood supplied by Sappi, 100% recycled as per our Greenpeace policy”?

    • Richard P

      A variation on the theme

      (At the cremation of a dead smoker): “Bic lighters: serving [insert name of deceased] in life and death”

      Or, before the first sod of soil hits the coffin, the priest pauses and says to the mourners gathered around: “First, a word from our sponsors, Prozac …”

      On a more realistic note, I assume that there will be ad breaks during the television coverage of Madiba’s funeral. I wonder what the TV time will cost?

    • Phillipa Lipinsky

      My o my, I have not been keeping up. Richard P, you need to take it slow. As for me, you can think of me in whatever way or form your simple mind will allow you.

      @Kit: Do YOU have life insurance?

    • Kit

      @Kit: Do YOU have life insurance?
      Yeah. Not exactly a substantial sum but at least my family won’t be completely broke, i.e. a balance: the least I can spend whilst still feeling that it’s serving its purpose. I’m not exactly flush with cash.

      Now it’s irrelevant whether or not I have life insurance, since I’m not the happy clappy around here and have reasonable risk tolerance but don’t go around calling the local sewage works a flowerbed.

      Now of course if you weren’t even a real person, as Richard P suggests, then the question is not only impertinent and irrelevant but impossible to answer without getting into the kind of details that simply don’t make sense when creating a 2D caricature of a real person.

      If, on the other hand, you’re a real person then the answer is more relevant because you pretend to have views that doesn’t match up to your real self, a quintessentially hypocritical position which puts all your other ‘personal observations’ in a less than flattering light.

      (And for the record, your comments on Sarah Britten’s piece on Maponya Mall display your complete lack of knowledge of any of SA outside Cape Town and your inability to see anyone else’s reasons for anything. Do you think that people live in Soweto through choice? Why yes, many do.)

    • Darren

      Hi … just my two cents worth…. someone knows something we dont…. Every possible combination for a Mandela funeral website has been taken… strange.

    • Len

      What a bunch of sorry asses,you moaners and groaners are!! Ever took a minute and think that it was Mandela himself that gave little grandson the brilliant idea to sell them funeral rights!!It is the same old story all over again,wake up and stop feeling sorry for yourselfs.(Mandela = money)and (money = Mandela)
      Even Mandela’s head is on money.The 90th birthday
      2008 bi-metal R5 coin has broken some world records among world coins.The madness will not stop after his death!!!IT WILL ONLY START!!!

    • Rod MacKenzie

      Hiya Len – everything you say has occurred to me except I dont see myself or the literates on this blog as moaners and groaners.
      On the whole we found it amusing and not surprising. I certainly dont feel sorry for myself and doubt the literate among the commentators do either. What on earth for? We are literate, just for a start, aren’t we?

      I cannot (and will not) speak for the semi-lits, such as the pseudo Polish Poodle and Forrest Gump (DH) AKA Captain Klutz.

    • Len

      Ok I admit that it was a little harsh to think that every one was moaning. I just can’t understand why so many people don’t read the TIMES. After I red all the comments about what grandson didn’t DO with grandpa’s funeral rights, I said to myself ; Len, business is booming in new S.A. You are now all brothers and so if you can’t beat them, join them. Grandson can’t have all the cake to himself !! So I went beside myself and registered all the top domain sites referring to “big M funeral.” So who said you can’t learn from grand children. I don’t play lotto, but there is nothing wrong with my eyes or brain !!

    • Fredrick

      While close relate to the hero of Africa honorable Madiba Mandela are praying for their own curse by preparing funeral to the living hero Ipersonally PRAY GOD TO ADD 15 MORE HEALTH YEARS TO THE MOST RESPECTED MAN OF MEN. For few of him are on Earth.