A Mandela boutique hotel is fine, a Mandela burger is not


The Nelson Mandela Foundation, which owns the nine-room Sanctuary Mandela boutique hotel in Johannesburg, seems resolute about keeping the monetisation of the Mandela brand to a tasteful minimum. But what is tasteful? And what is minimum?

Sello Hatang, CEO of the Foundation, seems to think that a boutique hotel is just fine but a burger is not. He is quoted by The Economist as follows: “We are trying to maintain the stature of the man.”

Where does $5-Mandela Shiraz fit in? Make no bones, it exists, but not because of the Foundation.

In fact, the wine (as well as the Mandela Sauvignon Blanc) comes from the House of Mandela, a retailer run by Makaziwe Mandela, the late president’s daughter, and two of her children. Its website instructs consumers as follows: “The House of Mandela wines that were produced at D’Aria are best appreciated when shared with others, as these wines were inspired by strong family values and a sense of community.” The House of Mandela also sells clothes and suchlike.

Ordering the key’s auction to be halted, South Africa’s Arts and Culture ministry issued a statement. It said “the key symbolises South Africa’s painful history whilst also representing triumph of the human spirit over evil.”

It added that “This key is living proof of South Africans’ long walk to freedom and belongs to the people of South Africa.”

But here’s the thing. The key physically belonged to Mandela’s family, his heirs and successors. The US auction house that was overseeing the sale said it was contacted by one of Mandela’s daughters to auction the key and other items owned by Mandela. And Mrs Mandela herself reportedly said the proceeds of the sale would have funded a memorial garden.

It’s not easy to negotiate the ethics and propriety of putting up for sale items that symbolise a man’s struggle but also epitomise a period in a nation’s history.

Surely it’s up to governments to regulate and moderate the terms of commemoration of national appreciation of national heroes?

We’ll next consider that Mahatma Gandhi cushion, Princess Diana tat and the principles of scarcity economics.

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