Soweto’s tourist attraction Mandela House Museum to be liquidated to pay off debt
Johannesburg - Workers at the Mandela House Museum in Soweto are worried about job losses as management have announced that the tourist site will be liquidated to pay off debt.
The house, which is a major tourist attraction on Vilakazi Street in Orlando West, Soweto, is due to be liquidated and the assets sold to pay off debtors.
Mandela left the house to the Soweto Heritage Trust, of which he was also a founder. The trust restored the house in 2008 to preserve its history through fund-raising events.
Staff at the house-turned-museum said on Tuesday that they were surprised to learn that it was going to be liquidated and the furniture sold off to pay off debts incurred by the Soweto Heritage Trust.
“We have just been told that the house is going to be liquidated and everything will be sold to pay off debt. We never knew the house was in debt because it is a popular tourist attraction. The whole thing is being done in secret and we are not told anything. We don’t even know when the liquidation will happen.”
The workers, who declined to be named for fear of intimidation, said it was unclear how much the museum owed and to whom, as it has been managed by the Apartheid Museum and not the Soweto Heritage Trust since 2010.
On Tuesday, the Apartheid Museum and the interim trustees promised to respond to questions but in the evening said they would release a press statement later in the week. Mandela’s grandson, Mandla, also said he was unaware of the liquidation process.
Mandela first moved into the house in 1946 with his first wife Evelyn Ntoko Mase. Eleven years later, after his divorce, his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, moved into the house with him. This is also the house Mandela returned to after being released from years of prison in 1990. The house was left with the furniture and other belongings the Mandela family.
One of the attractions of Vilakazi Street is that it is the only street in the world that has two Nobel Laureates; Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. While the Mandela home might also cease being a museum, the government has also not been able to fulfil the promise to turn the Brandfort home Winnie stayed in during her banishment into a museum. Winnie and her youngest daughter Zindzi were banished to Brandfort, Free State, in 1977.
After years of neglect, the government finally started appointing a new contractor for R2.9 million who would start renovations in May last year. Work was supposed to be completed in November but is still under way.