JOHANNESBURG (AP) — There were no bidders and no locksmiths willing to force entry for a scheduled auction Tuesday to sell artworks and other belongings of Nelson Mandela's ex-wife.
The bid to force Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to pay an old debt for school fees for her grand-niece failed.
Court sheriff John Maluleke and two other officials joined reporters gathered outside her gated home but were denied entry despite repeated ringing of the bell and banging on the metal gate.
Lawyer Stephen Karnavos of Alan Levy Attorneys, who listed the auction, said the former first lady owes nearly R46,000 ($5,000), which includes the unpaid fees as well as interest, legal costs and sheriff's fees. A check for the equivalent of $1,700 was paid to the law firm Monday but is yet to clear, Karnavos said in a statement. Madikizela-Mandela earns R900,000 (more than $95,000) a year as a member of South Africa's Parliament.
An assistant who answered the telephone at her office said Madikizela-Mandela would not be commenting on the auction or any money problems.
While reporters camped outside the main gate of her home, a black car sped out of the compound, exiting through a second gate. That car later returned with two unidentified women who did not comment to the press. Madikizela-Mandela was not in the car and it was not known if she was at her house in Soweto, near the Johannesburg home that she shared with Mandela when he first was released from prison in 1994.
No bidders showed up for the auction, which listed some paintings and sculptures, furniture and a 24-piece silver tea set.
Madikizela-Mandela is adored by many for her leading role in the anti-apartheid struggle and abhorred by others for various run-ins with the law, including allegedly ordering the kidnapping deaths of several young men in the 1980s when she was aggressively militant. In 1991, a court found her guilty in the kidnapping and assault of one youth who died of his injuries, and sentenced her to six years' jail. She appealed both the conviction and sentence, was found guilty of being an accessory in the assault and got the sentence reduced to a fine and a suspended prison term.
Karnavos confirmed the auction was called off. The auction was cancelled because officials could not find a locksmith willing to force entry into Madikizela-Mandela's home, a sheriff's official told The Associated Press.
Mandela and Madikizela-Mandela married in 1958 but were separated by his 27-year imprisonment by the racist white minority government. They were reunited when he was freed in 1994 but the marriage did not survive and they divorced in 1997, while he was South Africa's first black president.
Madikizela-Mandela remains prominent, sometimes feared, in her community. She is known to travel with bodyguards, who have been accused of several assaults and murders in the past.
Repeated calls to the sheriff's office to determine if a new auction date will be scheduled went unanswered.