A bronze statue depicting former South African president Nelson Mandela as he walked to freedom in 1990 following his release after 27 years of incarceration.

The Mandelas have apparently been negotiating a deal with American broadcaster CNN for Madiba’s eventual farewell, while Mandla Mandela is accusing the lawyers of some of his family members of lying about the state of his grandfather’s health.

All this while Nelson Mandela battles for his life in a Pretoria hospital where he has spent the past 29 days.

According to executives at the SABC, Makaziwe Mandela and her niece Ndileka, the daughter of Madiba’s late son Thembekile, held a sensitive meeting at the end of last month with a handful of officials from the public broadcaster, as well as a delegate from the Presidency.

The meeting was convened to discuss the coverage of Madiba’s funeral, of which the SABC is the official broadcaster. However the Mandelas demanded that CNN be given “preferential” access and status throughout, a conversation that was regarded as “inappropriate” coming from family members about “a funeral deal concerning one of their own”.

“We are aggrieved, and understandably so,” one of the officials at the meeting told The Sunday Independent. “But there appears to be little we can do, as the family appears to have their own plans,” which would clearly scupper the critical mandate of the SABC when the time comes.

“This wasn’t a request. It was a demand,” another official at the meeting added. “The CNN deal seems to be done and dusted.”

It is not clear whether any money has changed hands or whether this deal will benefit any of the Mandelas in any way, financially or otherwise.

Kim Noorgard, the bureau chief for CNN in Joburg, claimed not to know anything about it when he was contacted yesterday, while executives at CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta could not be reached.

Makaziwe Mandela, however, refused to talk about the alleged deal unless The Sunday Independent identified the officials it had spoken to.

“Unless you tell me who told you this, I’m not going to confirm anything,” she said as she proceeded to name the officials who were present at the meeting.

“Tell me which of them it was,” she demanded. “That was a confidential meeting and it should not be talked about.”

The conversation ended when The Sunday Independent refused to divulge its sources. Ndileka refused to comment.

Ironically, it was Makaziwe who slammed the international media as “racist” and “vultures”.

It is unclear why the two Mandelas have demanded such treatment for CNN, considering there is a long-standing arrangement with broadcasters all over the world that for certain aspects and days of Madiba’s eventual funeral, the SABC will be the only TV crew present, though they will provide live footage to the rest of the world, free of charge.

Any departure from that arrangement would be news to the Government Communication Information Systems (GCIS), said its acting CEO Phumla Williams yesterday. “I know nothing about this,” she said.


Update, 8 July 2013:
CNN responded to this article saying, "There is absolutely no truth to the allegation that CNN has bought the rights to the Mandela funeral."