The Arts and Culture Department is threatening legal action against New York-based auction house Guernsey that plans to sell-off the key that locked former president Nelson Mandela behind bars in Robben Island.
Guernsey wants to auction it for more than £1 million.
It was used by the jailer Christo Brand who is now selling the small metal key more than seven years after Mandela’s passing.
The department said the South African government was not consulted.
Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the key belonged to the people of South Africa.