Robben Island

On tuesday we went on a tour to Robben Island. This island has a very troubled history and the most knows part is its use as a prison for political figures during the apartheid’s regime, the most famous of all is of course Nelson Mandela who sat theere 18 of his 27 years of emprisonment.

The island lays about 12 kms north-west of Cape Town. We first took the ferry to the island, there we were picked up by buses and we drove around. Being a UNESCO world heritage site, the busses aren’t allowed to drive everywhere anymore in order to preserve the site as intact as possible. After the bus tour we were taken into one of the four prisons on the island, the maximum security prison where the political detainees sat. We were joined by an ex-political prison who told us the horrible stories of his time in there and of course some historical context around the social and political aspects of the times back then. He sat there for a little less than 5 years.

During the bus tour we drove around the different sites, four prisons for different purposes, the village where the families of the prison officers lived, bunkers and canon posts built during the second world war, the lighthouse, a mosque built on the grave of a Sheikh who was a prisoner, the field where the prisoners would do their work (extracting stones), etc. The stories told by the guide were so emotional I had tears in my eyes. The cruelty, the anger, the violence. It all goes beyond any simple conception of discrimination.

The stories went on with the ex-prisoner who told us about the tortures he suffered. Don’t worry I won’t write them down! They are seriously too horrible for words! And he made clear how important a part Mandela played from inside the prison. Mandela was sentenced for life, and by that they mean Natural Life. In other words, he woul never go out on probation after some years. His role was to motivate the fellow prisoners (who by the way were all highly educated) not to use any means of violence but to try the forgive and forget policy. And that is certainly not an easy task considering that the rest of the prisoners are filled with rage and hatred towards the whites. Of course, when put in perspective, it was the right thing to do. But can you imagine the courage in takes to take such a stand and go on preaching it among thousands of angry men?! The story was simply fascinating!

At the end of his story, you realise yet again how mankind never learns for its fellow mankind, that the same means are used in different times and in different parts of the world to reach purposes of power and control because the narrow minds of the powers that be or want to be only understand the reasoning of one race above the other, one race in the ruling one and the other is its subject, that the only way of survival is a constant state of war, that the only road to peace is to keep to your own. I won’t go too political on you guys, I just needed to write this because of the overwhelming rage I feel everytime I look at the workings of this twisted world…

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