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Nelson Mandela’s Johannesburg CBD legacy under threat



The three-storey building where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo first had their offices as attorneys lies empty.

The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation (JHF) said it was concerned that a building where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo operated as attorneys would soon be hijacked by homeless people if the City of Johannesburg does not it to good use.

According to the JHF, Tambo and Mandela operated at the building next to the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court for a number of years before Tambo was exiled and Mandela sent to prison.

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Now the three-storey building lies empty with a number of homeless people sleeping near its doors.

Chancellor House an empty shell

A spokesperson for the JHF, David Fleminger, said the organisation had written a letter to the City of Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) expressing concern over the emptiness of the building.

“As the heritage foundation we know that an empty building at risk as there is no maintenance, there is no activity. There are no feet going through the building. The entire corner of Chancellor House has now been taken over by homeless people,” he said.

Fleminger said the building was of historic significance because the glass window which had the names of Tambo and Mandela on it still remained visible to this day.

“Chancellor House is the location where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo first had their offices as attorneys, one of the earliest black law firms in South Africa and they opened right next to the magistrates court to help people who were legally persecuted under the apartheid laws,” he said.

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Fleminger said it was important for the City of Johannesburg to take seriously the historic significance of the sites that are related to the history of the father of South Africa’s democracy.

“This is about using our heritage resources and protecting our heritage resources,” Fleminger said.

City of Johannesburg held accountable

He said the JHF had threaten to write an open letter to the media if the JDA did not ensure that Chancellor House is put to good use.

“The city could put an NGO law firm or someone who could deal with cases on a non-profit basis,” he suggested.

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