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South Africa: Govt seeks to block auction of Nelson Mandela’s personal items in the US

A planned auction in the US of about 70 personal items belonging to South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela may be stopped as the South African government has filed a motion in court to prevent its sale.

South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra), the body charged with protecting the country’s history and culture, says “it had filed an appeal to block the sale” in December.

According to media reports, the controversial auction in the US, now planned for 22 January by Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandelaincludes a set of hearing aids, an ID card, gifts from world leaders and some of the apartheid hero’s clothing.

New York-based Guernsey’s auction house has already listed them for sale saying the shirt might sell for up to $70,000 and the hearing aids up to $20,000. But items considered to be of national heritage cannot be taken out of the country under South African law. 

Zizi Kodwa, the country’s minister for sport, arts and culture ministry has said his ministry was backing the case “for the sake of maintaining the country’s rich heritage”. “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” Kodwa added in a statement.

In December, the High Court in Pretoria, the rainbow nation’s capital gave Ms Mandela the go-ahead to sell the items, disputing the government’s argument that they were of national heritage before Sahra filed its appeal.

The government had first opposed the auction when it was announced in 2021, saying that the items proposed for sale were in fact national artefacts. The controversial auction, planned at the time for 2022, was then cancelled, resulting in a two-year legal battle.

Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist and politician who spent 27 years in prison served as the first president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election.

Source: Africa News