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‘Drone’ hovering over Mandela hospital

June 29, 2013

PRETORIA, June 28: South African police on Friday detained the owner of a radio-controlled helicopter drone carrying a camera that was filming scenes around the Pretoria hospital where ailing anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela is being treated.

F.C. Hamman, a South African freelance film-maker, was escorted away by police along with the helicopter camera he was flying with his 21-year-old son Timothy outside the clinic where Mr Mandela, 94, has spent three weeks with a lung infection.

“As far as I know, I didn’t do anything wrong,” Mr Hamman told Reuters by phone from the office in the hospital compound where he was taken by police. He said he was waiting to be interviewed by senior officers and for them to view the footage filmed.

“We were careful not to fly over the hospital,” Mr Hamman said.

He said he had intended to offer to media organisations the aerial shots of intense activity around the hospital, where crowds of jostling journalists have mingled with well-wishers paying tribute to South Africa’s national hero.

The intense media scrutiny has angered some of Mr Mandela’s family.

Daughter Makaziwe on Thursday lambasted foreign media ‘vultures’ for not respecting his privacy as he lay critically ill.

Police had not so far pressed any charges, he said.

“You can’t fly one of those things without a permit,” one police officer said at the hospital after Mr Hamman was escorted away. Pretoria police declined to comment further.

The incident came just hours before US President Barack Obama was due to start an official visit to South Africa, including stops in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town. —Reuters