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Category » Cape Towns Attractions Robben Island Prison

November 09, 2018

Robben Island prison cells

Robben Island is a famous tourist attraction situated 6km off the coast of Cape Town. The Island was used by the settlers of the Dutch East India Company in the 1700's. The Island was always used as a prison for natives and slaves or any onyone not agreeing to the Dutch colonisism. Robben Island became famous during the apartheid era when political prisoners were captured and placed on Robben Island for life sentencing. Some of the political prisoners including the former president Nelson Mandela who spent 18 of his 27 year sentence on Robben Island.

In the 1960's Robben Island had exclusively prisoned on political prisoners. This was a time of hardship for non-whites in South Africa and also a time of sadness for families of the freedom fighters. Parties and individuals representing freedom and democracy were locked, 2 of the most active political movements of the time were the African National Congress (ANC) and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

Imprisonment on the island

In 1963 the liberation struggle suffered and most of the prominent people in the ANC's underground movement faced challenges. The groups who created the Operation Mayibuye (Operation Come Back).

The plan of the OCB was to overrule the apartheid government and the fight for freedom continued until members involved were arrested at a farm in Rivonia outside of Johannesburg. Many senior politicians were also arrested which included Walter Sisulu, Goven Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and Dennis Goldberg.

Nelson Mandela was arrested earlier on other charges and was sent to trial in Rivonia which was held by the United Nations Security Council in October 1963. The court ruled Mandela and seven of his colleagues to be sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island by 1964. The trial had a major impact against international sanctions, ANC and PAC members were banned from challenging the South African Government. The ANC was still in operation when Oliver Tambo escaped South Africa and managed the party for thirty years.

Robben Island prisoners

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island from 1964-1982 without any warning and left the prison in Pretoria. He was sentenced for life of which 18 years were spent on Robben Island, he then served 9 years of his sentence at 2 different prisons. He was charged for leaving the country without a passport and encouraging non-whites to challenge Apartheid instigated by South African Government. He was also charged for his active movement and the influence he had with the ANC. The courts gave the sentencing, and the prison authorities decided which prison he was sentenced at.
Eddie Daniels imprisoned on the Island from 1964-1979. Born with a English dad and a black mother was classified as a coloured citizen. He was always described as a man with great humour and honesty. Although he was not a member of the ANC he was a close friend of Nelson Mandela

Ronnie Mamoepa imprisoned on Robben Island from 1980-1985. He was the youngest prisoner on Robben Island and served five years on the prison at the age of 15.

Thami Mkwanazi imprisoned on Robben Island from 1980-1987. Thami Mkwanazi and eight others were sentenced to Robben Island under the terrorism act for encouraging youth to join the military and overthrow the South African Government. He was moved around to various prisons in the country and his longest sentence was on the Island
Johnson Mlambo imprisoned on Robben Island from 1963-1983. Johnson Mlambo was the chairmen of the PAC who was born in Johannesburg. He served 20 years on Robben Island and was sentenced for being an activist against the apartheid government.

Andimba Toivo ya Toivo imprisoned on Robben Island from 1968-1994. He was a Namibian anti-apartheid activist who was also the co-founder of South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO) in 1960.
During the harsh prison times on Robben Island a special thanks is given to the International Committee Red Cross (ICRC) for listening to the political prisoners complaints and seeing to their needs. Robben Island Prison can be visited with a Private Day Tour

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