South Africa: Nelson de Mandela’s heirs tear each other apart

►The proposed auction of iconic items of former South African president Nelson MANDELA has created a rift between several members of his family.


A5 NEWS – Nine years after Mandela’s death, rifts between his heirs threaten the preservation of his memory. This new trench war between the Mandelas has its origins in a proposed auction of the iconic South African anti-apartheid leader’s valuables.

Indeed, at the end of 2021, the New York auction house Guernsey’s announced a historic sale of Nelson Mandela’s valuables. The catalogue of these objects includes, among others, the key to the prison cell on Robben Island, where the former South African president spent eighteen of his twenty-seven years in prison; objects donated by former US presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush; drawings by Nelson Mandela and a South African constitution signed by the former Nobel Peace Prize winner.

According to several sources, these objects were entrusted to the auction house by Nelson Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela-Amuah. She is also said to have convinced Nelson Mandela’s former guard and now friend, Christo Brand, to sell the key to the Robben Island cell for the good cause.  Officially, the deal is intended to fund a garden in memory of the former president, near the village where he is buried.



Opposition from family members

Since October 2021, several members of the Mandela family have accused Makaziwe Mandela-Amuah of stealing certain items from the former president’s final resting place in Johannesburg.

“The family members claim that the sale features at least eleven high value items, ten iconic Nelson Mandela shirts and his passport, which were stolen or removed from the Houghton home in highly questionable circumstances by Ms Amuah without permission,” Lerner & Lerner wrote in a letter on 22 November 2021. The auction house complied and withdrew the objects concerned, but Ndaba Mandela still does not understand why it took so long to get the entire auction cancelled.

Reaction of the South African authorities

The South African Heritage Authority discovered that items belonging to the former president had been sent abroad without permission. “Objects associated with persons (…) significant to the history of South Africa are part of the national heritage and, as such, should be subject to a permit application in the event of export,” the South African Heritage Resources Agency said.



The South African Heritage Resources Agency was tasked with determining the status of the items initially offered for sale in consultation with the family and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. More than a month after the sale was cancelled, the return of the items is still pending, while the family refuses to allow the items to be returned to Makaziwe Mandela. “Negotiations are underway between the various parties to bring them back to South Africa in the safest way possible,” confirms the South African Heritage Resources Agency.

This sad saga of the Mandela family has provoked national and international public opinion, which is urging the family to preserve Nelson Mandela’s heritage.





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