Famous killed off by the media

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

Death and taxes are two conditions none of us can avoid but author Mark Twain observed that some folk get killed off by the media while still alive and kicking.

"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated," Twain observed drolly after hearing of his glowing obituary in the New York Journal.

Orlando Pirates Football Club recently had to apologise after erroneously announcing the "death" of its former coach.

"Pursuant to our publishing a story on the death of our former coach Kalambay Bibey Mutombo on Sunday, based on information brought to the club by his agent, Bajio Banjani, the club has since been informed that Mutombo is in fact still alive and on a life-supporting machine at a hospital in Belgium," the crestfallen club reported

President Thabo Mbeki recently called for a minute's silence for Zambia's President Levy Mwanawasa. Mbeki was attending a ceremony in Pretoria for victims of the wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa when he was told Mwanawasa had died.

The Zambian leader was taken to hospital in Egypt after suffering a stroke at an African Union summit. He was then taken to a hospital in France, where he supposedly died.

"The president had a satisfactory night at the Percy Military Hospital in France. The news reports are not true," Vice-President Rupiah Banda announced after Mbeki's gaffe.

History is riddled with famous folk who woke up to read about their death.

Fidel Castro, the long-serving Cuban leader, woke up in his hospital bed one day to hear that his foes in the US had written him off.

CNN conjured up a draft obituary, based on US president Ronald Reagan's, in which it described Castro as a "lifeguard, athlete, movie star".

Rudyard Kipling's death was reported in a magazine to which he wrote: "I've just read that I am dead. Don't forget to delete me from your list of subscribers."

Actor James Earl Jones was pronounced dead during a radio broadcast of a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game by announcer Lanny Frattare.

Frattare had confused him with James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King's assassin, who had just died.

Closer to home Sipho William Mdletshe was thought to have died in a 1993 road accident.

After two days in a metal box in a mortuary he was freed when his cries alerted workers.

His fiancée refused to see him again, believing he had turned into a zombie.