The trustees of the CEO SleepOut have apologised “if they offended anyone” after a poster was circulated on social media, stating that former president Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island would be auctioned for the event.
The trustees, who sent out a statement as a collective, said the event was to raise funds for worthy causes and added that it was “certainly not its intent to” offend anyone.
A poster did the rounds on social media on Wednesday evening, bearing the words: “Robben Island room bid. In addition, the once in-a-lifetime opportunity to sleep in Madiba’s personal cell number – 7 will be auctioned off for the night with bids opening at US$250 000.00 (about R3.4m).”
It sparked a lot of debate and some said it was in bad taste.
On Wednesday evening, Robben Island spokesperson Morongoa Ramaboa told News24 that the island was a world heritage site and would “never ever offer anyone Mandela’s cell”.
However, the trustees maintained that they met with Robben Island management “since early 2017” and that in March 2018, they met with the island’s board and were granted permission to auction Mandela’s cell.
In the statement released, the trustees said the prison’s management, including their appointed spokesperson, had attended a media launch in May where the auction of Mandela’s cell was outlined in a media release distributed at the event.
“Nelson Mandela is a shining example of how important prison education is, having studied in prison. The funds raised through the auction of his cell was to go directly to benefit prisoners in South Africa and assisting with their reintegration into society.”
According to them, the sole secondary beneficiary of Mandela’s cell’s auction was the Prison-to-College Pipeline Project (P2CP).
The P2CP had been developed by Stellenbosch University, the Department of Correctional Services and Western Cape community organisations. The main aim was to integrate prisoners back into their communities.
The CEO SleepOut project said it was also granted permission to use the required infrastructure, including access to all the maximum-security jail cells and the maximum-security courtyard.
They could also use the Robben Island ferries, access to their vehicles on the island, access to their tour guides – who are all former prisoners, access to water and electricity and access to the lime quarry and a night tour of the island, they said.
Ramaboa also said the event was initially planned for July 18 on Mandela’s birthday, however, the organisers pulled out and asked for a postponement.
The trustees said they were approached by an international consortium in mid-June, which proposed that the date of the Robben Island edition of The SleepOut be moved to later in the year.
This was so that it could coincide with an international event that had the same target market.
“The SleepOut Trust held a meeting with this international consortium on 18 June 2018 to explore strategic alliances for possible collaboration and a decision was made by the trustees to move the date of the event.”
“The section of the website relating to the Robben Island event was then removed around this time period in order for the necessary updates to be made.”[source: News24]