Mandela auction in New York suspended after opposition from Pretoria

An auction of Nelson Mandela’s personal effects planned for next month in New York has been suspended due to opposition from the South African Government, the latter and the organizer of the operation announced on Tuesday January 30.
Some 100 “precious objects” belonging to the former hero of the anti-apartheid struggle, who died in 2013 at the age of 95, including an identity card and some of his famous colorful shirts, are included in the sale catalog. The sale is proposed by an American auction house, Guernsey’s, in association with Makaziwe Mandela, the daughter of South Africa’s first black President.
Although the sale was due to take place on February 22 at Lincoln Center, Guernsey’s has decided to suspend it, the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) announced on Monday. “This sale is suspended”, Guernsey’s confirmed on Tuesday in a message published on its website.
Initially scheduled for 2021, the sale had already been suspended. SAHRA had taken the matter to court, arguing that the auction included objects of historical and cultural importance. South African judges finally gave the go-ahead in December 2023, but a new appeal was lodged, the outcome of which is still awaited.
“The suspension of the sale is a responsible and precautionary approach”, SAHRA welcomed. “It will allow the ongoing legal proceedings to be completed and give us the opportunity to pursue our goal of preserving our nation’s cultural heritage”, it added.
The sale has drawn the ire of the South African government, which opposes it. “Nelson Mandela is an integral part of South Africa’s heritage”, Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa blasted on Friday January 26, calling for evidence of “his life’s work to remain in the country”. An appeal has been lodged to block the “unauthorized export” of certain objects destined for sale, the minister continued.
Guernsey’s described the sale as “exceptional” and “unprecedented”.
A black silk jacquard shirt, which Mandela wore when he met Queen Elizabeth in 1996, was offered at a starting price of $34,000, and an ostrich leather briefcase at $24,000. Epistolary exchanges and gifts from Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were also featured in the lot.