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"South Africa Moves to Halt US Auction of Nelson Mandela's Personal Items"
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Johannesburg – The South African government announced on Friday that it would contest the auctioning of numerous artifacts belonging to the nation’s anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela.

The government argues that these items hold historical significance and should be preserved within the country.

The 75 artifacts, which are set to be auctioned on February 22 by New York-based auction house Guernsey’s in collaboration with Mandela’s family, include iconic items such as Mandela’s Ray-Ban sunglasses, “Madiba” shirts, personal letters written during his imprisonment, and a blanket gifted by former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.

Among the auctioned items is a champagne cooler presented by former President Bill Clinton, with bidding starting at $24,000. Also included is Mandela’s post-prison release ID document.

Despite an initial attempt by the South African Heritage Resources Agency to halt the auction, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria granted permission for it to proceed.

The South African Minister of Arts and Culture, Zizi Kodwa, expressed the government’s desire to protect Mandela’s legacy and ensure that his life’s work remains in the country. Guernsey’s has stated that proceeds from the auction will contribute to the construction of the Mandela Memorial Garden in Qunu, where Mandela is buried.

In an interview with the New York Times, Makaziwe Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s daughter, explained that her father wanted the former Transkei region, his birthplace, to benefit economically from tourism. She also expressed her desire for people around the world to have a piece of Nelson Mandela as a reminder of compassion, kindness, and forgiveness, especially in the current global context.

The news of the auction has sparked controversy on social media in South Africa, with many expressing concern over the sale of what they view as part of the nation’s cultural heritage.

The planned auction occurs amid a broader movement in Africa seeking the return of cultural artifacts removed from the continent during the colonial era. This trend includes recent agreements between Nigeria and Germany for the return of Benin Bronzes and French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to return artworks known as the Abomey Treasures to Benin.

Piers Potter

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