In response to a public outcry New York auction house Guernsey had suspended the sale of 70 personal items belonging to South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero.
His identity book and prison letters, his famous Madiba shirts, his walking stick and gifts from US President Barack Obama are some of Nelson Mandela’s personal items that were set to be auctioned om 22 February, 2024. But Guernsey has now suspended the sale without an explanation.
In an interview with South Africa’s online platform Daily Maverick spokesperson Morongwa Phukubye says: “We believe it to be self-evident that Mandela’s ID book requires the protections afforded by South Africa’s heritage legislation.”
The auction, initiated by Mandela’s eldest daughter Mazikiwe and former prison warder Christo Brand, had caused outrage in South Africa. “Will we once again have to travel to European museums to see our own relics?”, Nelson Mandela’s stepdaughter Jozina Z. Machel, also on behalf of his granddaughter Ndileka Mandela, asked on X. “It is incredulous to witness a devaluation of a father, a grandfather, an African and World leader.” The Johannesburg Nelson Mandela Foundation also spoke out against the sale. In an interview with South Africa’s online platform Daily Maverick spokesperson Morongwa Phukubye said: “We believe it to be self-evident that Mandela’s ID book requires the protections afforded by South Africa’s heritage legislation.”
Early efforts to stop the sale by the Guernsey Auction House failed after Makaziwe won a 2-year battle against the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA).
The auction house claimed that the proceeds of the sale would be used for a memorial garden at Mandela’s gravesite in Qunu, Eastern Cape. “For those who lived through Nelson Mandela’s remarkable struggle for freedom, and for future generations, the garden will serve as an inspirational reminder of a man whose life impacted us all,” the auction house said. But South African opinion broadcaster and author Redi Tlhabi commented: “Mmmm… This is THE Nelson Mandela. I'm surprised one has to auction any of his things to raise money to memorialise him. I can think of at least 20 people internationally who would donate to that initiative. These treasures of statesmen live in museums. Their history is priceless.”
The South African government also joined efforts to block the sale. According to South African Arts & Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa who emphasized the urgency of the matter "for the sake of maintaining the country's rich heritage".