A South African businessman now living in Canada wants to sell a unique collection of solid gold items intimately associated to Nelson Mandela, including the world's only gold cast hand belonging to the anti-apartheid revolutionary and political leader, who died in 2013.
Malcolm Duncan, who worked alongside Madiba in 2000, said while he didn’t like Mandela at first, his passion and honesty ended not only winning him over, but also triggering a deep admiration towards the man who later became South Africa’s first black President.
So, when Mandela's private secretary, Mary Mxadana, told Duncan in 2003 that mining company Harmony Gold was selling solid gold casts of the leader’s hand, with half of the proceeds going to Mandela's Children's Foundation, he jumped at the chance.
Duncan told MINING.com Harmony planned to make 27 sets, one for each year Mandela was in prison, but he chose to buy what he considered the most important sets: the 1990, which is the year Mandela was released; and the 1964 set, corresponding to the last year of the Rivonia trial, which led to the imprisonment of the politician.
Duncan said he paid about US$360,000 back then for the pieces, half of the sum was supposed to be given to the Mandela children's fund, but that never happened.
He said he only learned about it years later, when he decided to sell Mandela's hand along with the rest of his memorabilia collection and use the proceeds to set a vehicle parts factory in Calgary, where he lives now.
The mystery of the missing money thwarted the intended sale. And that was not the only reason. Duncan also discovered that a "certificate of authenticity" in the form of a metal plaque supplied by Harmony Gold, contained a clear inaccuracy.
It stated that the casting had been authorised by art publisher Ross Calder in his capacity as trustee of the Nelson Mandela Trust, something that Calder himself clarified later it wasn’t the case, as he only was the one who proposed the idea to Madiba.
Once that issue was cleared out and after months of talks between Duncan’s lawyers and Harmony Gold, he finally was given a fresh paper certificate of authenticity for his collection.
He also learned then that the company had destroyed all the remaining castings, as instructed shortly afterwards Mandela had fallout with his lawyer, Ismael Ayob.
That made Duncan the owner of the world’s only original gold castings of Mandela's hand.
The artefacts were made using around 20 pounds of gold and the value of the metal alone is estimated to be worth US$870,000 at current prices.
Duncan estimates they are worth up to $13 million, but he expects to get between US$6 million and $10 million for the unique collection, which he hopes is acquired by a museum, art gallery or anyone who respects Mandela's legacy. Bloomberg/GB