Pretoria - A dozen police officers apprehended a man who
flew a radio-controlled mini helicopter over the Pretoria hospital in South Africa, where
former South African president Nelson Mandela was being treated on Friday.
The multi-copter had a rotating camera and was in the sky
for a few minutes. A multi-copter looks like a spider. It has several arms
attached to a central control unit. A rotor is mounted on the end of each arm.
As soon as the gadget landed in the hands of one of the
controllers, police rushed to the area. Hundreds of people, including
journalists, mobbed the officers as they escorted the man and his helicopter
into the hospital.
Minutes later, police officers returned and took the
gadget's remote control from another man.
The helicopter apparently belonged to FC Hamman Films, a
private film company. It was not clear what police did with the man or the
According to Reuters 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 hospital.
"As far as I know, I didn't do anything wrong,"
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,"
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 former black president.
Hamman said he had already used the home-built flying
camera in other film projects and had also assisted police with surveillance
work in operations against suspected drug-dealers in the
Johannesburg suburb of Eldorado.
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 Hamman was escorted
away. Pretoria police declined to comment further.
Despite the cold weather, many people milled around
outside Mandela's hospital on Friday evening.
Some were still bringing presents, mainly flowers, and
leaving them at a section of the hospital's wall, which had been turned into a
shrine to Mandela.
Mandela's family said the former president was still
critically ill, but stable when they visited him on Friday.