Madiba's gifts and awards
The much-loved Madiba is constantly showered with awards and gifts, particularly on his birthday. They come by post, courier or are personally delivery by a plethora of international and local organisations, ordinary citizens and enthusiastic children.
Madiba's gifts cover a wide range of items – anything from 4 kilograms of dates from an Arab sheik to a kelim rug from a Kurdish liberation group.
A glance into the room at the Nelson Mandela Foundation where these gifts are currently stored reveals enough football jerseys to outfit a few teams, many paintings and a library of personally autographed books presented by authors as diverse as Alex Boraine to David Beckham. There are dolls in national costume, a Mexican sombrero, a pair of tennis shoes from a local tennis champ, and medallions by the score.
In 2005 the Nelson Mandela Foundation deemed it necessary to put some policy in place to manage Madiba's gifts and awards, many of which the great man wished to share with the nation. So nowadays they are all appraised and catalogued by the foundation's Centre of Memory and Dialogue.
Head of the Memory Programme, Verne Harris, explains that gifts received by Madiba from the time he served as President of South Africa are considered presidential or state gifts. Most of these are on view at the Bunga Building in Mthata, which forms part of the Nelson Mandela National Museum.
Recently, a collection of gifts received by Mandela between 1990 and 1994 was moved from the ANC's headquarters at Luthuli House in Johannesburg to the foundation. It is hoped the collection will ultimately be housed at Constitution Hill when the centre relocates to this site at a future date.
Mandela House in Orlando West also houses some of Madiba's awards, including a collection of honorary doctorates and fascinating items such the boxing belt received from Sugar Ray Leonard (Madiba was a fine boxer in his youth).
According to Harris, Madiba sometimes keeps gifts for himself, particularly when they have sentimental value – such as the US Congressional Gold Medal received in 1998. Madiba's Nobel Peace Prize, however, sits safely out of harm's way in a bank vault.