South African government says it wants to prevent auction of historic Mandela items

by MMC
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The South African government says it will challenge an auction of items belonging to the country’s anti-apartheid stalwart Nelson Mandela.

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s government said Friday it will challenge the auction of dozens of items belonging to the country’s anti-apartheid stalwart Nelson Mandela, saying the items have historical significance and should remain in the country.

The 75 items belonging to Mandela, the country’s first democratically elected president who spent 27 years in prison for his anti-apartheid fight against the white minority government, will be auctioned on February 22 under an agreement between auctioneers based in New York. Guernsey and Mandela’s family, mainly his daughter, Dr Makaziwe Mandela.

Last month, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria gave the go-ahead for the auction after rejecting a ban from the South African Heritage Resources Agency, which is responsible for protecting the country’s cultural heritage.

The government announced Friday it would support the agency’s appeal.

South Africa’s arts and culture minister, Zizi Kodwa, said the government wanted to “preserve the legacy of former President Mandela and ensure his life’s work” remained in the country.

On its website, Guernsey’s says the auction “will be nothing short of remarkable” and that the proceeds will be used to build Mandela’s memorial garden in Qunu, the village where he is buried.

“To imagine actually owning an artifact touched by this great leader is almost unthinkable,” he says.

In an interview with The New York Times published Thursday, Makaziwe Mandela said his father wanted the ancient Transkei region, where he was born and raised, to benefit economically from tourism.

“I want other people in the world to have a piece of Nelson Mandela – and to remind them, especially in the current situation, of compassion, kindness and forgiveness,” she told the Times.

Reports of the auction have sparked heated debates on social media platforms in South Africa, with many criticizing the auction of what they see as the nation’s cultural heritage.

The planned auction comes as many African countries seek to repatriate to Africa valuable African artworks and objects that were removed from the continent during the colonial years.

More recently, Nigeria and Germany signed an agreement for the return of hundreds of objects known as the Benin Bronzes. The deal follows French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision in 2021 to sign more than 26 pieces known as the Trésors d’Abomey, priceless works of art from the 19th-century kingdom of Dahomey, in what is now Benin. .

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