Scandal on Robben Island: An Auction to Sleep Inside Nelson Mandela’s Cell for One Night Heavily Criticized

  • July 5, 2018

The Times Online has reported that The SleepOutMovement, an organization responsible for CEO SleepOut (a charity event for high-powered individuals), has backed out on plans to auction off a night to stay at Nelson Mandela’s cell. The decision has been made after receiving heavy backlash from South Africans and netizens all over the world. This year’s event was to be held at Robben Island (Cape Town), where Mandela spent 27-years of his incarceration. SleepOut had originally listed bidding to begin at $250,000 (R3.4 million) on their website. Three people had already set their bid for a chance to sleep at 2.4 by 2.1-meter concrete cell.

Nelson Mandela Lifestyle Asia
Nelson Mandela in his cell in Robben Island Prison


Organizers listed the cell on their website in a write-up that read, “once in a life opportunity to sleep in Mandela’s personal Cell Number 7.” The page was removed on Wednesday. Robben Island denies any knowledge of SleepOut’s plans to auction off Mandela’s cell. Spokesperson Morongoa Ramabao condemned the move in a statement to the Times, “It was a shock. We would like to commend South Africans for calling them out. It’s completely impossible. You can’t auction any cell for that matter. We are a World Heritage Site and accountable to UNESCO (The United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and it is the heritage of South Africans. Why would we do that to ourselves? Our heritage is not some piece of carrot that can be dangled to people who have their own financial interests in mind.”

Ramabao continued to track down an e-mail thread between her and the organization. She shared that SleepOut never discussed with them any possibility of auctioning any cells of at Robben. In addition to Mandela’s cell, SleepOut’s website announced that 66 other slots for $100,000 a night, would be opened to those interested to stay at the prison for the annual charity. The event was slated to be held on July 18, Mandela’s 100th birthday, but has been cancelled till further notice.

Read the entire TIMES article here.           

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