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Mandela health scare sparked by mistaken tweet

Man watching 2011 "year in review" TV show mistakes old footage of Nelson Mandela for breaking news, and tweets that the former South African president has been hospitalized.
Mandela health twitter 2011 12 30Enlarge
Nelson Mandela looks at a copy of his new book "Nelson Mandela, by himself" a book of quotations from him book. The book was launched June 27 at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg. Mandela, who is 93, is often the subject of false reports about his health. (Debbie Yazbek/Nelson Mandela Foundation/Courtesy)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The news spread like wildfire on Twitter this morning: Nelson Mandela is in hospital.

It was retweeted by journalists and by a major South African newspaper, keen to be first with news about the beloved 93-year-old former president, known to be in frail health.

"Former president Nelson Mandela is in hospital, according to reports. Watch this space for more information," tweeted The Times, a Johannesburg newspaper (@TimesLIVE).

With the rumor running wild, the presidency of South Africa was forced to make a statement about the man affectionately called "Madiba" by South Africans.

"Madiba is fine and resting in Qunu," his rural village home, the statement said. He is "in good health, good spirits and enjoying the festive season."

The original "Mandela in hospital" news was no hoax, but rather an inaccurate tweet gone viral.

It seems to have come from someone watching a 2011 year-in-review TV program in South Africa, which included a clip from Mandela's brief hospitalization in January for a respiratory infection.

"Breaking news — Nelson Mandela is in hospital," tweeted a South African radio show host named Bob Mabena (@bob959).

He later corrected himself: "Was called in studio 2 watch eNews. Saw live visuals & tweeted. Stupid mistake. Shud've confirmed. Apologies."

But it didn't stop the mocking.

"Breaking News: Bob Mabena in hospital — suffering from embarrassitis," said another tweet making the rounds in South Africa.

Special Report from GlobalPost: Mandela's village: South Africa's road from Qunu

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/nelson-mandela-2011-health-scare-false-story-twitter