World: The sale of a former Nelson Mandela cell key made controversial in South Africa

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Nelson Mandela, lors d'une visite de son ancienne celulle à Robben Island avec l'alors président américain Bill Clinton, près du Cap, le 27 mars 1998. © AP - Scott Applewhite Nelson Mandela, during a visit to his former Template to Robben Island with the next US President Bill Clinton , near Cape Town, March 27, 1998.

Robben Island's cell key, the prison island off Cape Town where Nelson Mandela was locked up, was entrusted to Guernsey's, a New York auction house, by Christo Brand, old jailer and friend from Madiba.

with our correspondent in Johannesburg, Romain Song

among all the objects on sale by the house Guernsey's - including a bike of apartment or a copy of the constitution signed by Nelson Mandela - it's an old prison key that has triggered the controversy. This key did not only open the Mandela cell, but many others.

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for MPHO Masemola, Association of the Association of Former Political Prisoners of Africa South, this key is more than just a memory. "This key is the symbol of our freedom. It is associated with the release of Robben Island's political prisoners, "he says.

Faced with the mounted, the government managed to suspend the auction that was to take place on January 23rd. The owner, Christo Brand, ensures that the sale had to finance a garden dedicated to Nelson Mandela in Qunu, the village where the former South African president is buried. It has nevertheless accepted to withdraw it from the sale and leave it in a current exhibition in the United States.

For its part, the Ministry of Culture works at the repatriation of the key in South Africa. It is also what the former detainee wanted, MPho Masemola: "We would be happy if Christo Brand and the auction house could bring the key. It belongs to the state. It must be registered and paid to the national archives.

The Ministry of Culture considers, indeed, that the key is a property of the South African state. The status of other items on sale is also under study.

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