House 'harbouring Mandela's pistol' fails to sell

12th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

A property where South Africa's Nelson Mandela is believed to have buried his pistol almost half a century ago on Thursday failed to sell at an auction.

The house in Rivonia, north of Johannesburg, was built on the site of the old Liliesleaf farm, a hideout used by Mandela in the 1960s.

Biders who had thronged the auction floor went silent after the opening bid of two million rand ($288,537), a tenth of the estimated value of the gun if it is there, was announced.

After several attempts by the auctioneer to entice the crowd with the historic value of the property and the prospect of what lies underneath it, the hammer eventually fell without any offer.

Owner Al Leenstra said he was disappointed with the result of the auction.

"At least I expected a market-related offer. I guess I have to look for a tenant to rent out the house," Leenstra told AFP.

Leenstra said he had at least expected offers from 2.7 million to three million rand.

The 74-year-old, who vacated the house three years ago, said he will now try other avenues to sell the three-bedroom suburban property.

"I have had talks with the people from Liliesleaf but they do not have money to buy the property. I can't do them any favours," he said.

Information gathered by the Liliesleaf Trust suggests that Mandela had dug a pit in 1962 and buried a Soviet-made Makarov automatic pistol, shortly before his arrest.

The gun, which is now estimated to be worth 22 million rand ($3.3 million), had been given to him by Colonel Biru Tadesse of the Ethiopian Riot Battalion in Addis Ababa, when he went to seek military assistance.

Mandela, who went on to become South Africa's first black president, was at the time the commander-in-chief of the newly formed Umkhonto We Sizwe, the African National Congress (ANC) armed wing.

"We are pleased that the house was not sold. It means there is now an opportunity for us to try and raise funding to buy it," said Nicholas Wolpe, the chief executive of the Liliesleaf Trust.

He said the trust will renew its attempts to acquire the property.

© 2011 AFP

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