Historic letter signed by Nelson Mandela and other Rivonia trialists on auction by UK education trust

Suthentira Govender Senior reporter
The historic letter is on auction for R34,000.
The historic letter is on auction for R34,000.
Image: Canon Collins Trust

A letter signed by the late former statesman Nelson Mandela and 23 other Rivonia trialists appealing for funds to cover legal costs for their treason trial is on auction by a UK-based education trust to support young South Africans to develop solutions to the climate change crisis.

The Canon Collins Trust is hosting the online auction which also includes sports memorabilia signed by Springbok greats, cricketer Gary Kirsten, Manchester United's David de Gea, Protea cricket players and tennis player Alexander Zverev.

The trust was once chaired by the late radical Anglican priest Canon John Collins, who led anti-apartheid campaigns in the UK and in 2007 received the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo in Silver posthumously for his contribution to the liberation struggle.

According to the trust, Collins started a Treason Trial Fund in 1956 to help pay for the defence of 156 anti-apartheid leaders accused on four counts of treason.

“This letter, drafted a mere months before the end of the treason trial, is an appeal for support for the last leg of the four-year trial, signed by 24 of the leaders, including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Ahmed Kathrada.”

Stuart Craig, the trust's CEO, said the letter was discovered among old papers in their office.

He described it as a “chance discovery” when the organisation was moving to new premises. 

“The Canon Collins Trust is steeped in the history of the struggle, with our founders supporting the freedom movement for decades before,” he said.

“We were going through some old photos when this letter came to light. 

“It has the original signatures of Mandela, Kathrada and all, and is clearly a genuine and fascinating slice of history. We want it to free up some funds to support future leaders in the struggle for social justice.”

The highest bid received for the three-page typed letter so far has been R25,000.

The price tag is R34,000.

A limited edition print of Mandela, signed by famed photographer Jurgen Schadeberg is also going under the hammer and is priced at R160,000. A starting bid of R70,000 has been received for the print.

A white rugby jersey signed by six Springbok greats including Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana, Tendai Mtawarira, John Smit, Jean de Villiers and Percy Montgomery is also on auction. The bid threshold is set at R50,000.

Also on auction is a  jersey signed by Protea cricketers Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortjé, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi and Rassie van der Dussen — capped at R40,000.

A framed shirt of Manchester United's David de Gea, and an unframed shirt of Tottenham Hotspur's Jermain Defoe are also up for grabs.

World number seven tennis player Alexander Zverev's shoes, which he wore during his quarterfinal match against Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros in 2019, have a R10,000 price tag.

The auction is set to end on Saturday night.

TimesLIVE


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