Facelift for Chancellor House

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pretoria - The building from which former President Nelson Mandela operated while practicing as an attorney in Johannesburg, known as Chancellor House, has been partly refurbished at a cost of R7 million.

The complete refurbishment of the building is expected to be at the end of June this year.

Chancellor House, on the corner of Fox and Gerard Sekoto streets in the CBD, was the location of the law offices in the 1950s of Nelson Mandela and OR Tambo.

Speaking at the launch of the refurbished Chancellor House, Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo said a decision was taken in 1999 to declare Chancellor House a provisional national monument.

"Many people and conservation bodies were involved in the efforts to save Chancellor House," he said.

Masondo said Chancellor House will also be used to showcase Mandela's work and photographs.

Prior to the decision being taken to renovate the building, the building was in bad state, damage by fire and water penetration compromised its structural integrity.

The building was also vandalised and illegal occupation contributed to its deterioration.

About 68 people who were living in the building were offered alternative accommodation by the City of Johannesburg.

Mandela and Tambo's office at the building ran for eight years, from 1952 to 1960. Both were arrested in 1956 and tried for treason.

According to Masondo, Chancellor House will be regarded as an iconic site to celebrate the struggle for human rights.

Chancellor House is situated across the road from the Magistrates' Court, where Mandela, Tambo and their partners represented their clients.

In 1952, Mandela was brought before the same court and charged and sentenced under the Suppression of Communism Act.

Also present was George Bizos who also worked at the building during the Mandela times.
"I'm very pleased with the restoration of the building, this is in honour of Madiba," he said.
Bizos is an advocate known for representing activists during the apartheid era.

The late Oliver Tambo famously described Chancellor House as 'a shabby little building.'