South Africa Tries to Halt New York Auction Expected to Fetch $2M-$3M for Nelson Mandela’s Personal Items

South Africa is taking a stand against the upcoming auction of significant artifacts and personal belongings of Nelson Mandela, the revered anti-apartheid leader and former president. The auction, scheduled to take place in New York on Feb. 22, has sparked controversy and prompted swift action from South African authorities.

Nelson Mandela
Photo by Magda Ehlers:

The auction was initially announced in 2021, and the South African government has been fighting though the South African court system to stop it since, according to the BBC.

Inside the Mandela Auction

Guernsey’s Auction House in New York, in collaboration with Mandela’s oldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, is organizing the auction, which is expected to fetch between $2 million to $3 million. However, South Africa is contesting this auction, seeking to preserve Mandela’s legacy and prevent the dispersion of his cherished possessions.

The collection of nearly 100 items includes iconic pieces that are deeply intertwined with Mandela’s life and legacy. From his 1993 South African Identification book to his signature “Madiba”‘ shirt, aviator sunglasses, a gifted blanket from former U.S. President Barack Obama, sculptures, and personal letters written by Mandela these artifacts hold historical value.

Proceeds from the auction were intended to fund the construction of the Mandela Memorial Garden near his final resting place.

“It is my wish that before I close my eyes on nature, I will honor my father with a memorial garden,” said Makaziwe Mandela told The New York Times. “That’s what my father would want.”

However, the auction, of 70 of Mandela’s items, has faced significant opposition from South African authorities and other Mandela family members. The South African Heritage Resources Agency contested the decision to auction Mandela’s personal items in court, but their efforts were unsuccessful. Despite the legal setback, SAHRA intends to appeal the ruling, emphasizing the importance of preserving Mandela’s legacy within South Africa.

Behind the Controversy

The decision to try halt the auction came in response to mounting public outcry in South Africa. Mandela’s grandson Ndaba Mandela also voiced opposition to the auction, reflecting the sentiment of many South Africans who view Mandela’s personal items as an essential part of the nation’s heritage.

South Africa’s Arts and Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa is urging the blocking of the auction, pointing out that Nelson Mandela “is integral to South Africa’s heritage,” the BBC reported.

“It is thus important that we preserve the legacy of former President Mandela and ensure that his life’s work experiences remain in the country for generations to come,” he said.

Nelson Mandela, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 95, dedicated to the pursuit of equality and justice in South Africa. He was imprisoned for nearly 30 years for fighting white-minority rule under apartheid. Soon after his release in 1990, he became South Africa’s first Black president in 1994. When he died he left an estate worth $4 million.

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