Mandela family divided over the auction of Nelson Mandela’s belongings

Some of the 70 items belonging to former president Nelson Mandela scheduled for auction. | Montage: Timothy Alexander

Some of the 70 items belonging to former president Nelson Mandela scheduled for auction. | Montage: Timothy Alexander

Published Jan 23, 2024


The auction of late former president Nelson Mandela’s belongings has reportedly sparked discord among the Mandela family, bringing the family’s name into the spotlight in recent days.

Mandela’s 1993 original ID book, aviator sunglasses and reading glasses, famed “Madiba” clothing, walking sticks, briefcases, a silver goose tea set, a Robben Island tennis racket, and hearing aids are among the 70 objects scheduled for auction.

The objects have already been advertised on the Guernsey Auction House website and are planned to be auctioned next month.

It is also reported that Madiba’s daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, wants to use the money to fund a memorial garden in the Eastern Cape.

While many South Africans are denouncing the decision taken to auction items, speculations are still rife.

His grandchildren, Mbuso and Ndaba Mandela, expressed disbelief at the decision and said they were not informed as a family.

When Mbuso was asked on ENCA about his personal reactions about the belonging being auctioned off, he said: “Look, what is happening at the moment is that I want to first and foremost say that this auction is not something that we as the entire family have discussed or agreed upon.

“This is a decision that was made by my aunt. It is not something that took the process of having a family discussion, discussing which items should be put up for auction and whether we should auction them or not. So we, as the rest of the family, are still somewhat disheartened by some of the items that are there.”

Ndaba, who is in New York City, voiced the same feelings and denounced the auction.

“How do you sell your grandfather’s identity? This is what your father identified. Because obviously that Aunty Maki … This is something that belongs to the greater nation. Not only the Mandela family, but the greater nation of the country. You know you are basically taking the opportunity away from young people to be able to engage with Nelson Mandela,” Ndaba said on eNCA.

In recent months, there has been a dispute surrounding the family’s name due to allegations that the Houghton house is in ruins.

Independent Media recently reported on the mansion, which was said to have been abandoned after the lights were turned off, allegedly because the owners had not paid their rates.

Speaking about the house, former ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus said he fondly remembered some of the notable people that graced the property, adding that it was awful to see the residence in this state.

“It is truly sad that the residence of President Mandela in Houghton has been allowed to go to rack and ruin. I have so many great memories of having gone to visit Madiba there and the critical conversations that we had. Both when he was still president of the ANC and of our country, and also after he had retired.

“In my mind’s eye, I can still see him sitting there in his favourite chair in the lounge, at the bay windows, having his favourite cup of tea. When one visited Madiba, he was always the perfect host, and he always made sure that one was comfortable and well taken care of.”

This year marks 11 years after the death of former Mandela.

Meanwhile, the South African Heritage Resources Agency’s (Sahra) bid to halt the auction of at least 70 items that belonged to Mandela has made international news.

Guernsey Auction House in New York plans to auction about 70 of Mandela’s items on February 22 as part of a fund-raising effort to support the establishment of a memorial garden near where the former president is buried.

This follows a two-year battle where Sahra went to court to try to block the sale of the items, describing them as heritage objects.

Last month, the organisers of the planned sale, led by Makaziwe, won a court judgment after South African officials tried to block the sale of the items.

Sahra, with the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and the Robben Island Museum, then applied for leave to appeal against the High Court judgment.

On Friday, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa said Mandela was integral to South Africa’s heritage and his life, experiences and legacy “live in our consciousness and in the values we promote as a country”.

“It is important for us to record and tell our stories to deepen our heritage. The legacy of former president Mandela, and many others who have contributed to get South Africa to where it is today as a free, democratic, and culturally diverse nation, cannot be forgotten. It is therefore critical to support the intervention by Sahra for the sake of maintaining the country’s rich heritage,” he said.