South Africa condemns auction of key to cell that housed Mandela

This content was published on 24 December 2021 – 17:05

Johannesburg, Dec 24 (EFE) .- The South African Government on Friday condemned an auction of the key to the cell in which the historic president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela was held in the jail on the island of Robben Island.

The South African government reacted in this way to an information published this Thursday by the British newspaper “Daily Mail” that indicates that the key will be auctioned by the Guernseys house, based in New York, next January.

Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison on Robben Island, near Cape Town (southeast), in a cell whose key is now offered to the highest bidder by his jailer, Christo Brand, who ended up becoming his friend.

The key, according to the British newspaper, could exceed one million pounds (about 1.2 million euros) in the bid, scheduled for January 28.

“It is incomprehensible that Guernseys, who are clearly aware of our country’s painful history and the symbolism of the key, should consider auctioning the key without any consultation with the Government of South Africa, the South African heritage authorities and the Museum of Robben Island, “South African Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa said in a statement.

“The key must be returned to its rightful owners with immediate effect and this auction must be stopped,” the minister stressed.

Mthethwa is discussing with the Roben Island Museum and other South African institutions “the appropriate steps that should be taken to stop the auction and ensure the return of the key to South Africa.”

The CEO of the Mandela Foundation, Seal Hatang, also expressed his opposition to the auction of the key.

“It does not belong to an individual to sell, as alleged,” Hatang was quoted as saying by news portal News24.

Brand’s business representative, Andrew Russel, said Makaziwe Mandela, Mandela’s eldest daughter, contacted Brand to include the key in an auction for items to help raise funds for Mandela’s memorial garden in her hometown of Qunu.

“For this reason, Christo agreed to auction it. He wanted to preserve the memory of his friend in this way,” Brand said, in statements collected by News24.

The key has been, for the last three years, in an official world exhibition of Nelson Mandela, according to the representative of the ex-jailer.

The auction will include, among others, gifts given to him by former US President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, Mandela’s own glasses and ceremonial pens he received from former US President George W. Bush and the UN.

Mandela (1918-2013), South Africa’s first black president, spent 27 years in prison for his fight against the segregationist regime of “apartheid” imposed by the country’s white minority from 1948 to the early 1990s. EFE

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South Africa condemns auction of key to cell that housed Mandela