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​If you’ve ever dreamed of eating Nelson Mandela’s favourite dish in his house or sleeping in his room, dream no more.

Mandela’s former home on 13th Avenue in Houghton, Johannesburg, has been transformed into an exquisite boutique hotel, named Sanctuary Mandela.

Sally-Anne Grinter, the hotel’s operations manager, best describes the experience in these three words: reflection, peace and freedom.

Sanctuary Mandela officially opened in September 2021. The transformed and refurbished boutique hotel boast nine bedrooms, including the presidential suite which was Mandela’s old bedroom, two meeting rooms, restaurant, bar, swimming pool and a lovely garden. The bar and restaurant are open to the public. At the entrance you’re greeted with welcoming smiles by friendly staff. Sanctuary Mandela offers an unforgettable experience in the life of the nation’s father and global icon, Madiba.

It’s a space of reflection and tranquility and offers guests the opportunity to intimately experience the hospitable nature of Mandela. He stayed at the premises from 1992 to 1998. He hosted esteemed guest on the property such as British supermodel Naomi Campbell and fellow Rivonia Trialist Ahmed Kathrada and human rights lawyer George Bizos.

After he and Graça Machel got married, they moved to the Houghton house on 12th Avenue. Thereafter the Nelson Mandela Foundation occupied the space. After the foundation outgrew, the space the house was vacant.

Grinter says the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which owns the building, wanted the property to be self-sustainable instead of just standing vacant and going to disrepair. They got investors involved and converted it into a nine-bedroom boutique hotel. Construction started in 2018 and the development is in partnership between the foundation and Motsamayi Tourism Group.

“We’re trying to keep his legacy alive in the space and everything we do here,” Grinter said.

Some of the finer details that makes the experience spectacular are the replicas of letters Mandela wrote during his lifetime. The menu is in the form of a letter with a stamp to illustrate how Mandela loved writing and the dining experience boasts some of his favourite meals. The green chair at the entrance is the original chair he sat on while reading his daily newspaper under a tree.

“It was built to be a space of reflection and thought-provoking experiences. We’d like for guests to leave knowing more about Madiba and who he was as a person. They should leave here and think ‘wow that can assist to make me a better person’,” says Grinter.

Kervin Richtenberg, the food and beverages manager, says Sanctuary Mandela is more than just a hotel and still viewed as a home. “This is the home where legacy was made in our country and being proudly South African. I think that’s the most interesting part.”

Some of Madiba’s favourite dishes, like oxtail, are on the menu as a starters. Other dishes are traditional to the country like the Nguni beef and Cape Malay-style fish. Other dishes tells a story, like the Ethiopian Kitfo dish, which Mandela had in Ethiopia. Other delicious dishes and desserts include seared salmon, sweet chicken, malva pudding and many more.

Richtenberg is honoured to work at Sanctuary Mandela. “The most important part of my job is being a part of the building of a legacy. It’s difficult today to find joy and Madiba inspired that,” he said with a smile.

The jewel of Sanctuary Mandela is Xoliswa Ndoyiya, who prepared meals for Mandela and his family for over 22 years. She is now part of the team who prepares the delicious meals at Sanctuary Mandela. Ndoyiya and Mandela met in 1992. During a walkabout, she explained he was in his dining area, which is now one of the meeting rooms, when they met. Ndoyiya described him as humble.

Sanctuary Mandela have hosted late executive mayor of Johannesburg Jolidee Matongo and Economic Freedom Front leader Julius Malema, among others.

The public is urged to make a booking before visiting the restaurant or bar. For accommodation bookings or more information, call Sanctuary Mandela on 010 035 0368 or visit the website (Sanctuary Mandela - A Place of Reflection, the heart of Madiba heritage)

Written by Brümilda Swartbooi