I would stand by this window every morning and observe him going through his routine. I would then call Pretoria. I was very interested in what happened to him daily.-Colonel John Hardman
Nelson Mandela, the legend and change agent, is known as one of the great political leaders of recent times. An international hero, Nelson Mandela’s lifelong dedication to stamp out oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency. However, the road to freeing his people took work. He spent eighteen of his twenty-seven years in Robben Island prison for refusing to give up the fight against apartheid. During my vacation in South Africa this past Fall, I visited the prison.
Robben Island takes its name from the Dutch word seals (Robben), located north of Cape Town. The south african locals called it Robbeneiland. Political activists and criminals were housed in the prison from the late-seventeenth century until 1996 when apartheid ended. The island is basically oval shaped and flat, barely above sea level, about two miles long and one-eighth mile wide. At the base of the island sits a pearly white stone barrier in front of the pier. Lonely and desolate, it’s out there in the middle of nowhere..
So, one cool, sunny November morning, we took a boat there on the Indian Ocean. Although deep baby blue and breath-taking, the Indian Ocean waters were calm. Once we arrived at the island, the lack of green vegetation amazed me. Mostly sand, we saw the graveyard where prisoners were buried and the bathroom hide-out where they met and talk without being overheard. Eventually, the guide took us on a tour of the prison grounds as well as inside, and I actually saw some seals wobbling and hawking on the island nearby.
Today, Robben Island is a South African National Heritage Site and museum with millions of visitors every year! Therefore, please take a moment to look at the photos and imagine Mandela’s journey of imprisonment. South Africa is free today because of his efforts and the deep committment he had to his people! Thank You for Reading! Until Next Time!
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