Robben Island Museum has strongly condemned the launch of an auction offering the winning bidder the opportunity to sleep in Nelson Mandela’s cell on the island.

Cape Town - Robben Island Museum (RIM) has strongly condemned the launch of an auction offering the winning bidder the opportunity to sleep in Nelson Mandela’s cell on the island.  

“We are saddened that Nelson Mandela’s legacy is being exploited in this way,” says RIM spokesperson, Morongoa Ramaboa.

“As a World Heritage Site, Robben Island Museum would under no circumstances consider auctioning Madiba’s cell. The preservation of our heritage is non-negotiable; it is a key priority for us to safeguard our valuable legacy in order to offer an authentic visitor experience,” Ramaboa said.

On Wednesday organisers of the annual CEO Sleepout, an initiative which raises money for various charities, announced that a night in Mandela's iconic 2.4 metres by 2.1 metres concrete cell would be auctioned for charity to mark the centenary of prisoner number 46664's birthday.  

Online bidding started at R3.4m and has already attracted three bids, reaching R4.1m with the sale set to close on July 16.

"The suggestion was to auction the cell to raise money to fund the Prison-to-College Pipeline... educating incarcerated people in South Africa," said Liane McGowan, spokeswoman for the CEO SleepOut South Africa adding that details of when the one night only fundraiser will take place, had not been finalised. 

Mandela was kept on Robben Island prison off Cape Town for much of his 27-year incarceration. 

IOL and AFP