The University of the Witwatersrand, or Wits, has issued an apology to Nelson Mandela’s family and “friends, fellow South Africans and global citizens” after prematurely publishing a story about Madiba’s passing.
The press statement explains that while Wits didn’t intend to publish the article, it had – like most news outlets – prepared an obituary statement which was stored in the university’s content management system. Unfortunately, while the piece was hidden from the public, it wasn’t hidden from search engines and ended up indexed by Google, allowing readers to arrive directly at the link.
This follows a similar issue last week at German website, Deutsche Welle, which also unintentionally published its obituary for Madiba. It was retracted a short while after.
Many international media outlets have pre-written obituaries for members of state and other prominent figures, and as seen here a simple slip of the fingers can be more embarrassing than it’s worth to be first with the news.
Mandela, who is very much alive and who we’re told is getting better, spent the last two weeks in hospital recovering from a lung ailment. The 94-year-old former president was the focus of the world’s attention, with press camping outside his hospital, and a heavy security presence to boot.