South Africa Looking to Halt Auction of Mandela Memorabilia

Over 70 items belonging to Nelson Mandela are due to go on auction in New York in February, but the South African government is trying to block the sale.

The South African government on Friday said it was backing a legal bid which seeks to halt the sale of personal items belonging to former president and anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela.

Over 70 items belonging to Mandela are set to be auctioned later in February in New York.

Heritage agency’s bid to block Mandela items’ ‘unpermitted export’

South Africa’s Minister for Arts and Culture Zizi Kodwa expressed “significant concern over the impending sale” and supported the South African Heritage Resources Agency’s (SAHRA) bid to halt what it called “the unpermitted export for exhibition or sale on auction of items associated” with the late former president.

“Former President Nelson Mandela is integral to South Africa’s heritage,” Kodwa said on Friday.

“It is thus important that we … ensure that his life’s work and experiences remain in the country for generations to come.”

Among a trove of items to be sold are personal effects like Mandela’s ID card, aviator sunglasses, his distinctive collared “Madiba” shirts, and a number of walking sticks.

Various personal gifts are also on the list, including a blanket given to him by former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle and a champagne cooler that was a present from former President Bill Clinton.

Unclear if sale will proceed

Auction house Guernsey’s described the collection of items going on sale — which is expected to fetch several million dollars — as “nothing short of remarkable.”

“To imagine actually owning an artefact touched by this great leader is almost unthinkable,” the auction house wrote on its website.

The auction house has been working with Mandela’s oldest daughter Makaziwe, who won a court judgment in December allowing the sale to proceed.

The South African Heritage Resources Agency said it had lodged an application for leave to appeal that judgment, which is now pending.

Guernsey’s president, Arlan Ettinger, told AFP news agency that the government’s move had put the company “in the very, very difficult position of saying; Do we go forward with the auction?”

Guernsey’s said proceeds from the event would be used to build a memorial garden at Mandela’s resting place in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

The Mandela family made local headlines last month in stories about the state of the late president’s home in the leafy, upmarket suburb of Houghton in northern Johannesburg.

Pictures showed the house — which had hosted various world leaders and international celebrities — abandoned and in a state of disrepair. The house had previously been lived in by Mandela’s grandchildren.

kb/msh (AFP, AP)

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