Government agency says the auction was delayed because the item left South Africa without ‘necessary permits’.
The key to the Robben Island jail cell, where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison, was estimated by the American auction house Guernsey’s under the hammer on January 28.
Guernsey’s announced on its website that the auction had been postponed until further notice “pending a review” by the South African Heritage Resources Agency.
The government agency requested that the auction be stopped “Not because they believed anything had been stolen, but that things had left South Africa without the necessary permits,” said Guernsey president Arlan Ettinger.
Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa praised the auction house for agreeing to suspend the auction.
In a statement, the ministry said “the key symbolizes South Africa’s painful history, while also representing the triumph of the human spirit over evil.
“This key is living proof of South Africans’ long road to freedom and belongs to the people of South Africa. It must therefore rightly be returned to the country. “
The key was one of the items to be auctioned off under an assortment including an iconic “MadibaShirt, glasses and ceremonial pens.
The proceeds would be used to build Mandela Memorial Garden in his hometown where his remains were buried.
Ettinger said his firm was contacted by one of Mandela’s daughters to auction off the accessories, including the key.
Mandela’s former jailer Christo Brand, who has forged an unlikely and lasting friendship with the anti-apartheid icon, has held the key since the 1980s.
It was broken and he “sent it back to the authorities on the mainland… but it was returned to him, and he put it in a drawer and it stayed there for 30 years until a museum contacted him who was busy to gather things related to Mandela “, Ettinger said and praised Brand for being” very generous in giving up this property to help build the garden “.
The auctioneers explained they were complying with the government decision.
“I know it’s upsetting to the Mandela family, it’s upsetting to us, but… they [government] do what they think is best, we just agree with them, ”he said.
Mandela was elected the first president of democratic South Africa in May 1994 and served in that role until June 1999. He died in December 2013 at the age of 95.