We couldn’t leave Cape Town without doing the trip out to Robben Island. This is the prison where Nelson Mandela spent twenty seven years of his life. Although he served most of his imprisoned life here, this is not the prison that he was released from though. He spent the last few years of his sentence in a prison called Victor Verster. It is near the town of Paarl in South Africa.
Once you get off the boat at the dock on Robben Island you are put onto buses. We were taken around the large island for a tour. We were shown many buildings and told of their purposes. A lot of the buildings were for the many prison guards and their families that lived on the island.
After we were finished seeing the sites around the island we left the bus to start the actual prison tour. We were taken to the cell block where Nelson Mandela was kept and shown his cell.
The prisoners here were treated horribly. They separated the political prisoners from the criminal prisoners. They feared the political prisoners would try to influence the criminals to their ways of thinking.
We were shown the lime quarry where Nelson Mandela and many other prisoners were forced to work each day. They were ridiculed by being made to move the same lime stone from one side of the quarry then back to the other side. They were only given a glass of salt water to drink while they worked.
There were many psychological tactics used on the prisoners. They gave the Indian and Coloured prisoners better and larger quantities of food than the Black prisoners. This was to try to create fighting amongst them and to prevent them from uniting with each other.
The prisoners were allowed one visitor once a month for a 30 minute visit. You had to make an application 6 months in advance to visit a prisoner. You would not be informed if your application was accepted. You had to show up to the island on the proposed day. Only then would you be informed if your visit request had been granted.
All the prison tours are done by ex-political prisoners that served time here. It makes you wonder why someone who was imprisoned here would want to come back and spend more time doing tours. Maybe it is a way for them to deal with their time spent here by being able to tell their stories. Our guide was very passionate. You could feel the emotion come through in his words when he spoke to us.
It was a very emotional experience to come to the island and see where so many people were imprisoned for nothing more than fighting for freedom in their own country.