The man who survived 27 years of imprisonment and earlier medical emergencies behind bars, had to cope with the resentment of some of the people who knew him best.
Here are some of the players in this daily drama.
There's Makaziwe Mandela, the oldest daughter from the first wife who seems to be still nursing anger at not being acknowledged enough. Articulate and well educated, she's been given interviews for years not so subtly criticizing her dad for being the father of the nation more than her father. He has acknowledged not always being there for his children, but the bashing goes on.
She's also been a lead actor in the law suit against the administrators of a trust that include George Bizos, the legendary defense lawyer and lifetime Mandela friend, He expressed public disgust by what he described as an outrageous demand for money,
Then, there's a battle between his nephew Mandla who claims to be tribal chief and was caught unburying members of the Mandela clan. He is battling with both a tribal King who has fired him from his chieftancy, and the daughters who see him as an embarrassment. This conflict is headed for court on a serious charge of grave violation.
At issue right now is the question where Mandela and his relatives should be buried. The Mail & Guardian's Phillip de Wet asks:
"Who is winning the grave fight? Everyone but Mandla Mandela. Almost all the rest of the family have lined up against him, including (according to court documents) (his Wife Graca) Machel and (ex-wife) Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Mandla had a weak legal case to begin with, but was completely out-played in court. He has also seen his traditional standing weakened with abaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo publicly denigrating him and his claim to chieftaincy."
You can't make non-stop dueling up, or tune it out in the media din.
Meanwhile, a government inter-Ministerial Committee is planning the funeral with family members while construction workers upgrade the airport and roads near his rural home anticipating a tourist invasion to a grave that is already being viewed as a shrine, even as Mandela himself has said repeatedly he was no saint or savior.
Already media watchers are concerned that all of this discord surrounding his status could impact on his image. "it remains to be seen whether the media tone will recover and portray the icon in a positive light," suggests Stephano Radaelli, senior researcher at Media Tenor. "Should the media tone remain at such dire levels, this could potentially have an impact on Mandela's popularity ratings in opinion polling in months to come,"
"Understandably so, the media's interest in the critical state of Mandela's health is generating the negative tone but for a person who has been relatively quiet on the international front for so long, many might only be left with an image of suffering and ill-health of the legend," continues Mr Radaelli.
"Therefore, perhaps the international media needs to follow in the footsteps of Le Journal, a French TV news broadcast, where the former president's past achievements and leadership qualities are taking precedence over his health."
Most of the media coverage focuses on what's new, the more outrageous, the better, that is often confuses with real news. Already some documentary makers who want to tell parts of the Mandela story that is not well known, are being told by American media companies to stick with famous names and familiar stories.
"We have never heard of some of the people you show," i.e--leaders who have been close to Mandela and who he credits as being part of the collective "team" that overthrew apartheid. Because they don't know who they are, the assume the public won't be interested.
This is in line with the all too familiar axiom in the news world--"KISS"--keep it simple and stupid.