South Africa: Mandela Auction Suspended Amid Row Over Heritage

Seventy personal items of the former South African president were set to go under the hammer in New York in February.

A controversial auction of 70 personal items belonging to former South African President Nelson Mandela has been suspended.

“This auction has been suspended,” a note on New York-based Guernsey’s auction house stated on Tuesday.

The auction, which was scheduled to take place in February, would have included some personal belongings of the anti-apartheid hero, including his identity document and hearing aids.

His eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, was putting the items — including gifts from former US Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton — up for sale as part of a deal with Guernsey’s.

South Africa’s Heritage Resources Agency, which is responsible for the protection of the country’s cultural heritage, backed by South African government launched a legal bid to halt the sale.

Unclear if sale will proceed

Auction house Guernsey’s website still had the catalog of the items going on sale — which was expected to fetch several million dollars — on its site last week. It had described the items as “nothing short of remarkable.”

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

It did not comment on why it suspended the auction or if it would go ahead.

Heritage agency’s legal bid to block Mandela auction

The heritage agency told South African online publication Netwerk24 the auction was suspended after it made a request to Guernsey’s to wait until all court cases in this regard had been concluded.

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 heritage agency said it had lodged an application for leave to appeal that judgment.

Mandela’s daughter said she wanted, “people in the world to have a piece of Nelson Mandela and to remind them, especially in the current situation, of compassion, of kindness, of forgiveness,” she told the Times.

The appeal has been supported by South African government that argued the items belonged to the nation and that it was backing a fresh legal bid to halt the sale.

South African minister of arts and culture, Zizi Kodwa, said the government wants to “preserve the legacy of former President Mandela and ensure that his life’s work” remains in the country.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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