South Africa has suspended the earlier planned auction of the key to the prison cell that once held Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela was South African’s first Black president and anti-apartheid hero. He was held in Robben Island prison cell for 18 years of his 27 years in jail.
He was elected as first president of democratic South Africa in May 1994 and served in the role until June 1999. He died aged 95 in December 2013.
The auction of the cell key had been scheduled by the United States auction house Guernsey’s. And it was to go under the hammer on January 28 2022.
Nevertheless, Guernsey’s announced on its website that the auction was postponed until further notice. This postponement was due to “pending a review” by South African Heritage Resources Agency.
The South African agency called for the auction to be stopped “not because they believed anything was stolen but that things left South Africa without necessary permits”, Guernsey’s President Arlan Ettinger said. Government agency says auction is delayed because the item left South Africa without ‘necessary permits’.
A statement released by the ministry said
The key symbolises South Africa’s painful history whilst also representing triumph of the human spirit over evil.
This key is a living proof of South Africans’ long walk to freedom and belongs to the people of South Africa. It therefore must rightfully be returned to the country.”
It should be noted that the key was one of the items to be auctioned among an assortment. Other items include an iconic “Madiba” shirt, eyeglasses and ceremonial pens.
However, if the cell key is sold, the proceeds would be used to build Mandela Memorial Garden in his home town where his body was buried.
According to Ettinger, his firm had been contacted by one of Mandela’s daughters to auction the paraphernalia, including the key.
Meanwhile, Nelson Mandela’s former prison guard Christo Brand, who struck up an unlikely and enduring friendship with the anti-apartheid icon, had been holding the key since the 1980s.
It was broken and he “sent it back to the authorities on the main land … but it was returned to him, and he put it in a drawer and it stayed there for 30 years until he was contacted by a museum which was assembling things relating to Mandela”, said Ettinger, commending Brand for being “very generous to give up this possession to help build the garden”.
A statement from the auctioneers stated that they agreed with the South African government decision.
The statement reads,
“I know this is upsetting to the Mandela family, it’s upsetting to us, but … they [government] are doing what they think is best, we just disagree with them,” he said.
Watch this video of the moment Nelson Mandela intelligently answered a journalist.
Source: Aljazeera News