Robben Island as we know it was used to imprison South Africans fighting against the apardheid regime, however, Robben Island was used as a place to isolate individuals or whole communities long before aparheid. Previously we dicussed the history of Robben Island, In this post well mention Robben Island during the aparhied era.
The history of South Africa and Robben Island can be experienced with a Robben Island Tour and Cultural Tour
In 1910, after the Anglo-Boer War which occurred between 1899 and 1902, South Africa became a Union. Although the British triumphed in this battle, their administration slowly decided to step down, and by the 1950's they were completely gone.
In 1948, the white farmers (Boere) become more assertive in making their presence known and adjoining parties, HNP and AP, formed the National Party (NP). The NP requested that D.F. Malan separate all whites from non-whites, which increased racial tension between the two groups. Any person who did not comply with the law of the country got sentenced to Robben Island for life.
The reason for segregation was to keep control over economic and social systems, maintain the domination of the white minority and to further spread racial separation. An essential support of apartheid was the economic exploitation of black workers in South Africa. This resulted in companies taking advantage of black people and using them as cheap labour. However, despite the treatment of black workers, they still managed to keep strong and hundreds of workers united themselves into unions.
In 1946, a major strike across the country by mine workers occurred which caused major effects on the unions. During apartheid, in 1955, a non-racial union started and they were called the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). SACTU was established as an activist party, but they were banned and forced to work underground.
By 1961, the laws of apartheid got harsher and at this time Robben Island was mainly used as a political prison. The African National Congress (ANC) party was formed in 1912 which was a liberation party to unite the black, or non-white, citizens. The party was banned in 1960 and could only freely operate again in 1990, after the former activist Nelson Mandela was released from prison. In the early 1900's the Pan African Congress (PAC) was also formed.
The PAC was made up of political leaders who broke away from the ANC, but who also stood for democracy. They were led by Robert Sobukwe. The movement of political rights was taken away from the non-whites and groups were forced to discuss political issues undercover. During this time, in the 1960's, any persons caught having congregations of political issues were sent to Robben Island for life sentencing as well.
In 1964, Nelson Mandela was sent to prison on Robben Island. He spent 18 years there for illegal acts against the NP, who were in control of the Apartheid government at the time. His treatment in the prison was seen as cruel and inhumane. Mandela was forced to sleep on the floor in a small prison cell, in which he could barely move. His voice was unheard and his actions were unseen, until the International Committee Red Cross (ICRC) listened to his complaints in prison and started seeing to his needs. The ICRC was established in Geneva in 1949 and rendered a nursing service and helped the issues of military soldiers and prisoners. The ICRC helped the prisoners pull through tough times on Robben Island and prevented conditions from becoming worse. Apartheid and Robben Island made history around the world because of the incredibly harsh conditions that were imposed on the citizens of South Africa.
A quote written by Ahmed Kathrada
"While we will not forget the brutality of Apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument of our hardship and suffering. We would want it to be a symbol of the triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil; a triumph of wisdom and largeness of spirit against small mindedness and pettiness; a triumph of courage and determination over human frailty a weakness"
A quote by Nelson Mandela
"The majority of South Africans, black and white, recognized that Apartheid has no future. It has to be ended by our own decisive mass action in order to build peace and security. The mass campaign of defiance and other actions of our organisation and people can only culminate in the establishment of democracy. Robben Island today is part of UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of South Africa's biggest attractions. Robben Island attracts 1000's of tourist local and international to the Island.
Robben Island today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of South Africa's biggest attractions. Robben Island attracts thousands of tourist local and international to the island every year.