A motoring journalist took the car to a school in Franschhoek during a 2013 test drive.
A motoring journalist took the car to a school in Franschhoek during a 2013 test drive.

Nelson Mandela’s BMW may be off the road, but it’s still driving change. The navy blue BMW 760Li security edition was used by Madiba between 2004 and 2009 while he spearheaded the HIV/Aids awareness campaign, 46664.

At the end of its working life, the president’s office returned the car to BMW South Africa.

Robert Coutts, chief executive of the 46664 Bangle Initiative, said the car was restored in a joint venture with BMW.

It took about a year to refurbish the car, which had 50 000km on the clock, after which it was put on display at the Franschhoek Motor Museum - although it could have fetched more than R3 million if sold, he said.

One of its main attractions is that its features make it seem like something straight out of a movie.

Describing some of them, Coutts said there were buttons in the front that, when pressed, would activate an “extraction sequence”. If they were in a dangerous situation, the driver could send a signal for help and Coutts said they would be linked to other emergency extraction personnel.

When the armrest was pulled back, it revealed a fax machine.

The windows and body are bulletproof, and can withstand shots from an AK-47. The car even had smokescreens. Hidden behind the front grille is a blue light.

“When you look at it, it looks like a regular car. But it really is like a James Bond car.”

While on display at the motor museum, there was a lot of offshore interest. Coutts said that because of its security it piqued the interest of all kinds of people, even diamond dealers.

“But we felt it necessary, and the museum saw the need, to preserve the history inside of South Africa,” said Coutts.

The car was eventually sold to the motor museum and the proceeds went toward the 46664 Library Schools project.

Among the beneficiaries of this deal was Ikaya Primary School in Kayamandi; the container library at the school was opened on 16 January.

The cost of one library unit is R180 000 - R195 000.

That includes the cost of converting the old shipping containers to libraries by adding windows, doors and insulation, filling them with books, and the maintenance and management of the library.

While the school will add textbooks, with the help of its many partners, the project stocks the shelves with inspirational and aspirational books.

“We want to inspire the children to read, and to stay at school to further their learning,” said Coutts.

The library project was launched on Mandela Day in 2011, with the aim of bridging the gap in literacy and reading proficiency in impoverished schools around the country.

To date, 33 of these libraries have been handed to schools.

Because they are mobile, when schools are able to build permanent libraries, the containers can be moved to be used at another school.

The first two beneficiaries from the sale of Mandela’s BMW were primary schools in Gauteng, chosen by the staff who worked on the restoration at BMW SA in Rosslyn.


Meanwhile, the fate of another of Mandela’s cars remains shrouded in mystery. The Toyota Cressida that transported him on his release from Victor Verster Prison to the Grand Parade in Cape Town has still not been traced.

The provincial transport department launched an investigation into the location of the Cressida, hoping to track down its current owner.

The MEC’s head of ministry, Sanele Nyoka, said the investigation had hit a brick wall.

It’s one of those things.”

“It looks like the car was taken back to a dealership and sold like any other,” he said. “We haven’t been able to track it down.”

In December Dawood Khan, 83, said he was the one who arranged Mandela’s fleet of Toyotas in the early hours of February 11, 1990, the day of his release.

A fleet of Mercedes-Benzes had been arranged, but the ANC decided not to use those. Khan said his daughter-in-law’s Cressida was the one Mandela used.

The Protea Toyota dealership in Bellville, however, said the car came from its showroom. It had been lent to them free of charge by owner Hamza Esack.

The car was returned full of dents, and it is believed it was sent back to the showroom floor and sold to a buyer who was unaware of its historical significance. - The Argus