Looking around Madiba’s office, at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, North of Johannesburg, one can with no doubt see that the former statesman had a soft spot for boxing, and for the boxing icon Muhammad Ali.

Nelson Mandela was often referred to as a boxer.

Mandela’s love for boxing is evident in various objects on display at his Foundation office.

According to Nelson Mandela Foundation archivist, Zanele Riba, one of Madiba’s favourite books is Ali’s pictorial – GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) – A tribute to Muhammad Ali.

Riba says Madiba once asked her to page through the book for him. “I was once called by Tata to help him page through his favourite book. It is a big book, so he sometimes needed help to page through it. He would then look at certain photos of the book and admire Ali.”

Behind Mandela’s office chair is a bookshelf, among the books on display is another book titled Ali – The movie and the man.

A framed photo of Mandela and the boxing great, born as Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali after his conversion to Islam, is also on the bookshelf.

Mandela has met Ali a number of times after his release from prison, and the two had a special adoration for each other, sharing a love for boxing and an iconic status of being two of the greatest icons of the 20th century.

One of Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali’s meetings. (Reuters)


Madiba’s office space

Riba says Madiba used to love his office space. “He would come here and read newspapers; he loved reading newspapers. He would even read Afrikaans newspapers like Die Beeld.”

The Nelson Mandela Foundation has taken precautionary measures in recent times to make sure they preserve the condition of Madiba’s office by only enabling visitors to only view the piece of history from a viewing deck.

Riba says in earlier days people were allowed to come into the office space, but some would jump onto Mandela’s chair out of excitement.

“We decided to cordon off the place as a preservation measure, visitors would get overly excited and jump on the office chair. I guess it showed the love they had for uTata.”

Madiba would have turned a 100 on July 18; although not around anymore, he has left a piece of himself for coming generations to see, at the Nelson Mandela Foundation Museum/Memorial.

Explore Madiba’s office below: