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Mandela: SA's greatest son laid to rest (slideshow)
The world watched as Nelson Mandela was finally laid to rest in his hometown of Qunu following a dignified and moving funeral ceremony on Sunday.
Chancellor House is a fire-blackened three-storey building in central Johannesburg, inhabited by hundreds of squatters. The only clue to its place in history is a collection of faded newspaper cuttings on the wall of a squalid first-storey room, all of which show Nelson Mandela -- for it was here that the former South African president and his friend Oliver Tambo opened the country's first black law firm in 1952.
The brass plate bearing their names that once hung on the door is long gone, and a visitor to Mandela's old office must step past bags of rubbish, tread through shallow puddles and climb stairs in near total darkness.
The buidling is now at the centre of a fierce and emotive debate. City council officials are considering a plan to demolish it and turn the area into an "open urban space", but members of Mandela's family want Chancellor House to be turned into a national heritage site, honouring both the 91-year-old icon and the late Tambo, who was president of the African National Congress from 1967 to 1991.
"I think it would be a very good idea because that was part of his journey," Mandela's daughter Zindzi said. "That would also accurately record the relationship he had with his comrades as colleagues in the legal fraternity."
Tambo once told how, despite white minority rule, he and Mandela practised in the building opposite the magistrate's court in Johannesburg. "Chancellor House in Fox Street was one of the few buildings in which African tenants could hire offices. "It was owned by Indians," he recalled. "This was before the axe of the Group Areas Act fell to declare the area 'white' and landlords were prosecuted if they did not evict the Africans.
"'Mandela and Tambo' was written huge across the frosted window panes on the second floor, and the letters stood out like a challenge. To white South Africa it was bad enough that two men with black skins should practise as lawyers, but it was indescribably worse that the letters also spelled out our political partnership."
In 1960, with political tensions rising, Tambo left the country and Mandela was imprisoned during the state of emergency imposed after the Sharpeville massacre. Both men dedicated their lives to the liberation struggle.
Falling to ruin
Chancellor House was gutted by fire and fell into ruin. It was familiar pattern during the 1990s in Johannesburg's central business district as companies, fearful of crime and urban decay, moved their offices out to the city's northern suburbs. But now efforts are under way to regenerate the city centre.
Mandela's former office is now the home of 38-year-old Dick Macomary. He said he had lived there for 22 years and would be happy to move if the city council relocates him to a new home. In the meantime he earns a living guarding and washing cars parked by visitors to the nearby magistrate's court.
"It's very difficult to live here," Macomary said. "There is no lighting, no electricity, no toilet, no water. We are eating in the street, using paraffin. If you want to shit in the night, you have to go far. They should renovate this place and give me a new home."
He said that 364 people lived in the building, including children, with 10 or 15 to a room. "Nelson Mandela is a hero," he added. "If he wants to visit just once, I'll make him a coffee."
South Africa already has several national heritage sites associated with Mandela, including his birthplace and former home in Mthatha, his former houses in Alexandra and Soweto and the prisons on Robben Island and in Paarl.
The City of Johannesburg is seeking to buy the building and is studying options to restore it, demolish it and erect a replacement, or knock it down and create a commemorative park.
"The city has as yet not taken a decision to demolish the building," said council spokesperson Virgil James. "Nothing will be done without involving the relevant citizens. A proposal was submitted that, if demolished, the area be turned into an open urban space with some form of memorial to indicate the importance of the site." - guardian.co.uk