Johannesburg – Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has expressed his outrage following reports that a key which was used to jail former president Nelson Mandela on Robben Island is due to be auctioned off in the United Kingdom next week.
In his reaction to the reports, Mthethwa directed that urgent action be taken to stop the auction of the key. Guernseys, an auction house, intends to proceed with the auction despite an outcry in the country.
According to the reports, Nelson Mandela’s jailer Christo Brand is selling the key.
“It is unfathomable for Guernseys, which is clearly aware of the painful history of our country and the symbolism of the key, to consider auctioning the key without consultation with the South African government, the heritage authorities in South Africa and Robben Island Museum,” Mthethwa said.
“This key belongs to the people of South Africa under the care of the Robben Island Museum and the South African State. It is not anyone’s personal belonging,” Mthethwa said.
He said Robben Island had a legal mandate to collect and preserve objects associated with the prison for all the people of South Africa and the world.
“The key must be returned to its rightful owners with immediate effect and this auction must be halted. I am currently in discussions with the Robben Island Museum Council, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola and the National Heritage Council to consider appropriate steps that must be taken to stop the auction and to secure the return of the key to South Africa,” Mthethwa said.