Letter from Muhammad Ali to Nelson Mandela to go up for sale at auction

Muhammad Ali in Kinshasa, Zaire, in 1974.

A signed letter from Muhammad Ali to Nelson Mandela offering his condolences on the death of an anti-apartheid leader will be sold at auction.

The letter, dated April 13 1993, is typed and signed by Ali on letter-headed Muhammad Ali in South Africa stationery. It was typed by the personal assistant to the general manager of the Elangeni Hotel in Durban where Ali was staying at the time.

Ali requested the letter typed to express his condolences to Mandela on the loss of Chris Hani, who was assassinated on April 10 1993.

It will be sold at Henry Aldridge and Son in Devizes, Wiltshire, England, next Saturday and is expected to fetch between £6,000 and £8,000 (€7,000-€9,500).


The letter reads:

“Dear Mr Mandela

“Allow me to extend to you and the A.N.C. my deepest regrets upon hearing of the death of Chris Hani. My prayers go out to Mr Hani’s family and the people of South Africa during these difficult days.

“I am providing you the following information regarding my itinerary should you desire to contact me (prior to our scheduled meeting on 19 April 1993):-

“CAPE SUN – 13 TO 16 APRIL – TEL: 021 238844 FAX: 021 238875

“JOHANNESBURG GARDEN COURT – 16 TO 22 APRIL – TEL: 011 297011 FAX: 011 291515

“Inshallah, I pray that God keeps you safe”

A letter signed by the personal assistant who typed it includes: “Due to my nervous excitement about typing a letter of such historical importance I misspelt the name Muhammad replacing the last “a” with an “e”.

“The letter was taken to Muhammad Ali and duly signed before someone noticed the error and returned it to me. I typed it again but kept the incorrect copy for posterity.”

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said the letter was from one of the greatest sportsmen to one of the greatest men in history.

“It is a truly iconic cross collectable and will appeal to collectors of Ali memorabilia as well as those who collect Nelson Mandela material, items relating to apartheid, political history and collectors of iconic memorabilia,” Mr Aldridge added.

“Muhammed Ali was only in South Africa for a short period in April 1993, arriving shortly after the assassination of Chris Hani on April 10.

“Hani was the chief of staff of Umkhonto We Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). He was a fierce opponent of the apartheid government and was murdered by a far right extremist outside of his home in Boksburg.

“Against that backdrop Ali arrived in South Africa at a time when the country stood on the edge of a precipice with civil war a possibility.

“He attended Hani’s farewell at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on April 19th 1993, when he appeared to the crowd, they chanted “Ali! Ali!”.”

Mr Aldridge said Mandela kept a photograph of himself with Ali on his desk and his favourite book, in his later years, was an autographed copy of Ali’s biography.

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