A night in Mandela’s prison cell — yours for US$300K

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A night in Mandela’s prison cell — yours for US$300K
Anneke Clarke looks at Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island during a recent visit to the prison.
Anneke Clarke looks at Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island during a recent visit to the prison.

(AFP) – For rich corporate executives, fine food, expensive wine and five-star hotels come as standard.

But one discerning top boss with a spare US$300,000 (260,000 euros) will give up creature comforts for a night in the cramped prison cell that was Nelson Mandela’s home for 18 years.

That is according to organisers of the annual CEO sleepout, an initiative which raises money for various charities.

South Africa’s first democratic, black president was kept on South Africa’s Robben Island prison off Cape Town for much of his 27-year incarceration.

A night in his iconic eight-foot by seven-foot (2.4 metres by 2.1 metres) concrete cell will now be auctioned for charity to mark the centenary of prisoner number 46664’s birthday.

“The suggestion was to auction the cell to raise money to fund the Prison-to-College Pipeline… educating incarcerated people in South Africa,” said Liane McGowan, spokeswoman for the CEO SleepOut South Africa, adding that details of when the one night only fund-raiser will take place had not been finalised.

Online bidding started at US$250,000 (215,000 euros) and has already attracted three bids, reaching US$300,000 with the sale set to close on July 16.

The winner will spend one night in Mandela’s cell number seven, while up to 66 other bidders will sleep elsewhere in the island prison that is now a museum and World Heritage site.

The museum’s management could not be reached for comment. The Nelson Mandela Foundation said it was not a part of the initiative and could not be responsible for the usage of Mandel’s cell.

Sixty-seven was chosen as Mandela dedicated 67 years of his life to the fight against the racist apartheid system that governed South Africa until Mandela won the first democratic non-racial elections in 1994.

The initiative is part of the CEO SleepOut movement, which auctions nights in unusual locations to wealthy business leaders to raise money for charitable causes.

The Robben Island event will raise funds for the Prison-to-College Pipeline (P2P), a scheme that began in New York to help prisoners access university-level education. The P2P initiative will be launched in South Africa on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday.

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