A New York-based auction house has called off the sale of a number of items belonging to or associated with former President Nelson Mandela after the South African Heritage Resource Agency pointed to the items being potential national treasures.
Guernsey’s Auction House thus called off the auction, which was due to proceed later in January.
On the list of items earlier earmarked for sale was a key to Madiba’s prison cell on Robben Island.
The news of the key, in particular, was greeted by Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa with calls for it to be returned to the country.
In a statement, he said the key symbolized the country’s painful history whilst also representing the triumph of the human spirit over evil.
Guernsey’s earlier indicated that the proceeds of the sale were part of efforts to raise funds to build a 24-acre memorial garden and museum around Madiba’s burial site in Qunu.
The auction house told the New York Post that the South African Heritage Resources Agency had determined that these items were potential national treasures, and designated as such, requiring permits to leave South Africa.