Mandela Houghton

Nelson Mandela / Getty Images

No, you can’t sleep in Madiba’s Robben Island cell for R3.4 million

Mandela’s cell number 7 will not be sold to the highest bidder.

Mandela Houghton

Nelson Mandela / Getty Images

It’s a rumour that started early on Wednesday morning, spurred on by its morbid peculiarity. We’re quite relieved to confirm that in actual fact, nobody will be sleeping in Mandela’s cell, R3.4 million cash or not.

It’s as bizarre as it sounds. The prison cell that Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life in was rumoured to be on auction. One night on Robben Island, inside historic cell number 7; that’s what the highest bidder wins. And bids? Well, they start at R3.4 million.

The CEO Sleepout organisation were hosting the auction, which they say offered local and international business people as well as celebrities a once in a lifetime experience.

The group released a statement via its website, saying:

“No auction of its kind has ever been done in South Africa. The highest bidder will win the honour of spending the night inside the historic cell number 7‚ where Mandela spent 18 years.”

In true authentic style, the prison cell would be left with the bare essentials: a small red bin‚ a green bench‚ a metal bowl and cup‚ a small mat and thick metal bars on the small window.

Not to be misunderstood as distasteful or offensive, the organizers intended to donate some of the auction money to charity, saying:

“A portion of the funds raised from this auction will be awarded to The Prison-To-College Pipeline (P2CP)‚ an innovative education programme that was begun in New York. P2CP provides prisoners with access to public university-level education.”

But it’s all turned out to be a giant farce, with Robben Island management vehemently denying that Mandela’s cell is in some way up for offer.

Speaking to News24, Robben Island spokesperson Morongoa Ranaboa, said due to cell number 7 being a world heritage site, it is not on offer for any sort of auction, saying:

“We can’t do that. We’ve got so many bodies that we are accountable to and it belongs to the nation. So, what right would we have to auction Mandela’s cell or any cell for that matter.”

The bids were scheduled to be completed on July 18, 2018 – the day celebrating Mandela’s centenary, in which people the world over pay tribute to the great struggle hero of South Africa’s liberation.