By Nerea Gonzalez
Johannesburg, Feb 25 (EFE).- Nelson Mandela’s mansion in the exclusive Houghton suburbs of Johannesburg has been refurbished into a boutique hotel and “sanctuary” dedicated to the South African leader.
“It’s an experience, it’s basically an opportunity to experience Tata’s legacy, Madiba’s legacy and an opportunity for us to host the legacy and give the legacy over to the new generation,” manager at Sanctuary Mandela, Dimitri Maritz, tells Efe.
The hotel, which is housed in a white-washed gated building Mandela lived in between 1992 and 1998 — the year he married his third wife Graça Machel — has nine rooms that have been themed on the different periods of his life.
“Your entry-level room starts at 4,000 Rand ($261) per night. And the presidential suite is 15,000 rand ($980) per night,” Maritz says.
When the project first launched in 2018, the building was in such poor condition that the Mandela Foundation decided to refurbish it into a luxury hotel.
“We are not profiting from his legacy, it’s really not that. This place needs to be sustainable long term on its own,” says the manager of Sanctuary Mandela, which opened its doors to visitors in September.
“It’s really just an opportunity to show people a different way of doing things,” he adds. “This place needs to be standing in the next 50 years, and this is a surefire way of making sure that happens.”
The years that Mandela spent in the house coincided with a pivotal period in South African history.
Mandela won the presidential elections in 1994 and became the nation’s first black head of state while living in the villa.
According to Martiz, the mansion was the venue for many political negotiations and a steady stream of international leaders and celebrities, including United States president Bill Clinton, British supermodel Naomi Campbell, late US singer Michael Jackson and TV legend Oprah Winfrey, have all visited Mandela’s home.
Xoliswa Ndoyiya, Mandela’s chef until his death (2013), has taken the helm of Sanctuary Mandela’s restaurant.
The menu is inspired by Mandela’s favorite dishes which include ravioli stuffed with oxtail, bountiful breakfasts and dishes made with samp (dried corn kernels) and beans.
“He was a man who loved his food,” the chef recalls.
Ndoyiya, who like Mandela hails from the Eastern Cape province, had not even turned 30 when she started cooking for him.
When Ndoyiya applied for the position she had no idea who her client would be.
After getting over the initial shock of meeting Mandela, he broke the ice by asking Ndoyiya jokingly “do you know me?”
“If you think he’s the father of the nation, it was more of that at home (…) He was a father at home to everybody, a grandfather,” Ndoyiya adds.
“Serving him was a great experience in terms that I learned some values from him, such as being respectful, loving people, sharing with people mostly,” the chef adds.EFE