On my last full day in Cape Town, Roma took me to see Robben Island, which housed a jail for political prisoners during the Apartheid era that so shamed white South African rulers. The trip to and from the island, plus a tour takes about three hours. We were met by a bus which took us on a short tour around the island. Our tour guide was very informative, but we were not allowed to leave the bus except at a designated shop. I would have like to have seen the Irish cemetery and Robert Sobukwe's house.
Tuesday, December 05, 2023
South Africa Part VII
My Mandela pose.
At the end of the bus tour we were met by Sipho Msomi, a former political prisoner in the 1980s on Robben Island, who brought us on a tour of the facilities. He first described the torture and cruelty of the guards, before describing the miserable daily life they all led. He of course showed us the cell where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years as a political prisoner. His cell is about 2m by 2m - my garden shed at home is bigger than this. He slept on a mat on the floor, and had to slop out with a bucket. Despite 27 years in prison, his will was never broken. He was not the only one who suffered here, at one stage Sipho told us that there were over 1,000 prisoners here at one time.
I wonder will attractions like this still exist in years to come. Today as I write this, it is the 10th anniversary of Mandela's death. There are now just 20 former prisoners working as guides on the island, soon there will be no more. Long after everyone who knew Mandela is gone, his legacy will survive, and the bitter memories of Apartheid will fade.
Roma at Nelson Mandela's cell door.
Cape town viewed from Robben Island.