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Nelson Nandela. The buyer of the NFT will have exclusive access to the original document at Liliesleaf Museum. Image Credit: AFP

A non-fungible token (NFT) created from Nelson Mandela’s original arrest warrant raised 1.9 million rand ($130,000) in an auction to help fund a heritage site that documents South Africa’s struggle for democracy.

Mandela, the anti-apartheid activist who emerged from 27 years in prison to become South Africa’s first Black president, was arrested in 1962 for conspiring to overthrow the White-minority government.

Proceeds from the sale will go toward the Liliesleaf Museum Heritage Site, which received the original document in 2004 as a donation, said Ahren Posthumus, CEO of Momint, the marketplace for NFTs that sold the Mandela item. Last year the museum received about $50,000 following an auction of a NFT of a pen gun owned by fellow freedom fighter Oliver Tambo.

This helps the “museum sites stay afloat”, Posthumus said in an interview. “They have been badly affected by the lack of tourism due to COVID. So this is a way to revitalise their flow and keep history alive.”

Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and the first multiracial election was held four years later.

The buyer of the NFT will have exclusive access to the original document at Liliesleaf Museum, Posthumus said. “The ink is visible through the paper” of the high-definition scan, he said.

Liliesleaf farm, then on the outskirts of Johannesburg, was used as the secret headquarters of the African National Congress from 1961 and was where Mandela and other party leaders hid from authorities. Leading activists were arrested there during a raid by police in 1963.

NFTs have soared in popularity in recent months, with caricatures of monkeys and lions commanding prices in the millions of dollars. Sports clubs, prestige automakers and even pop stars are among those getting into the nascent trading business, which uses blockchain technology to authenticate unique ownership tokens attached to otherwise easily reproducible digital goods.