Gauteng Tourist AttractionsChancellor House
Where? Corner of Fox and Gerard Sekoto Streets, Ferreirasdorp, Johannesburg CBD
How? Call For Tours contact +27 (0)11 678-3905
Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo ran the first black legal practice in the country from a modest three-storey building, known as Chancellor House, during the 1950s at the height of apartheid.
The major effort of their healthy practice was to help those accused of crimes against the state and of disobeying the oppressive laws, most of them pass law related, of the time in South Africa. Ironically some of these were the very crimes for which the two attorneys would later be held accountable (they were both accused of high treason, arrested late in 1956).
Although acquitted for treason, Mandela had to leave Chancellor House in 1960 when his involvement in politics made it difficult (Tambo and his family left the country already in 1958 amidst fears that the ANC would be banned), but continued practising law from a nearby flat.
Chancellor House today lies on the corner of Fox and Gerard Sekoto streets, close to the law courts. Up until 2010 it was left to languor, nothing more than a derelict relic of the past, its sole occupants the homeless, who thought nothing of burning fires in the building to keep warm, thereby destroying the original interior design completely.
When rehabilitating Chancellor House, the Johannesburg Development Agency made sure to bring on board an architect specialising in heritage projects. He used old photographs as a reference to restore the building's exterior with period details like the wooden window frames and the sign on which the name of the building is recorded.
The ground floor of the building now serves as a freedom struggle museum. One of the displays is a fascinating timeline with photographs and interesting events (including a photograph of Mandela, the boxer, sparring on the rooftop of the South African Associated Newspapers Building with Jerry Moloi – the same photo that inspired Cianfanelli's Shadow Boxing sculpture just across from Chancellor House).
Many of the displays are visible from the windows of the museum so that passers-by may read the exhibits and learn more about Mandela and Tambo. And the area around Chancellor House is now completely redeveloped and clean and safe to visit.