Go back in time when you visit Robben Island
Robben Island serves as a remnant of history, an active symbol of triumph against adversity. The popular tourist destination lingers in the memory of all South Africans when we recall the life of former president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who spent 18 years in the island’s Maximum Security Prison with other political leaders in an attempt to free South Africa from the bondage of Apartheid. The UNESCO World Heritage Site once served as the ultimate exile, now Robben Island is a historical artifact; a must-see for any visitor wishing to take a journey back into time…
“While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument to our hardship and suffering. We would want Robben Island to be a monument…reflecting the triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil.” Ahmed Kathrada
Robben Island: The Facts You Were Not Aware Of
While “The Island “is renowned as banished land, a place for the imprisonment of political activists and those resisting oppression and domination, it had additional uses. Here are a few unusual facts about Robben Island:
- Robben Island is named after the Dutch word “Robben” meaning seals, due to the presence of seals along the shoreline and the seas surrounding it
- It is not an island, but a submerged mountain linked to Blouberg’s mainland by a saddle
- “The Island” is an important part of SA’s maritime history; 70 documented shipwrecks lay scattered across the island.
- The island served as a general infirmary; a hospital ground for the chronically ill, a leper colony and the mentally ill.
- The site has four cemeteries (1754-1931); the Moturu Kramat (a Muslim burial and memorial site) , the Leprosarium, a formal cemetery and a staff burial ground
- The World Heritage Site is a natural conservation area that is home to 132 species of birds, 23 species of mammals and a lush assortment of flora and fauna
Political Prisoners You Might Know:-
- Ahmed Kathrada, former Rivonia Trialist and long-serving prisoner
- Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa and leader of the African National Congress
- Mac Maharaj, former accused at Little Rivonia Trial
- Nelson Mandela, African National Congress leader and former President of South Africa (first black president)
- Govan Mbeki, father of former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki. Govan was sentenced to life in 1963 but was released from Robben Island in 1987 by PW Botha
- Tokyo Sexwale, businessman and aspirant leader of the African National Congress
- John Nyathi Pokela, co-founder and former chairman of the PAC
- Joe Seremane, current chairperson of the Democratic Alliance.
- D. Naidoo, a South African lawyer and member of the African National Congress
- Walter Sisulu, former ANC Activist
- Robert Sobukwe, former leader of the PAC
- Kgalema Motlanthe
Robben Island is an experience best perceived hands on. While the history books can only give you a glimpse into the past; a tour of the island provides a tangible venture that every South African should take.