Gandhi's South Africa home for sale, `response phenomenal'

“I’m an optimist, and the interest being shown by local and international potential buyers following publicity makes me confident that a new buyer will also retain it in the same state that it has been for so long,” Nancy Ball said.

She described the response to the proposed sale as “absolutely phenomenal!”

Ball is retiring to Cape Town and has put the house up for sale to someone who would have the same interest in its historic value.

The thatch-roofed house in the northern Johannesburg suburb of Orchards was designed and built by architect Hermann Kallenbach, a close confidante and follower of Gandhi as he developed his Satyagraha philosophy during his stay here by leading locals against oppression.

Gandhi and Kallenbach lived at the house for three years from 1908.

“The house has a special quality and I have also been in touch with the previous owners before the 28 years that we have lived in it. They all decided to maintain it as it was originally built,” Ball said. Only bathrooms and the kitchen have been adapted over the years.

The only Gandhian relic retained in the home though is a prayer stool. “We found it in the attic and although there is no firm evidence, it is believed that Gandhi used it during his meditation.”

As Ball was keen on preserving the heritage of the home, she contacted Stephen Gelb, director of the Centre for Indian Studies at Wits University, to find a suitable buyer.

Gelb said that initiatives to find buyers among the local Indian community had initially drawn little interest. But after media interest from places as far afield as Britain and Canada, a number of people had come forward, including an unidentified Malaysian businessman who is a Gandhian as well.

Kirti Menon, a great-granddaughter of Gandhi who lives here, has also launched an initiative to get locals to buy the house.

“I wish I had the required 2.5 million rands to buy it immediately,” Menon said.

“When I visited the house and Mrs Ball told me that my grandmother had once visited and sat there, I got all soppy.  I said I would need a few days to develop a strategy to buy the house,” Menon said.

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