South Africa
Robben Island Museum

Discover travel destinations of travelers writing a travel journal on FindPenguins.
Travelers at this place
    • Day 82

      Cape Town, South Africa- Robben Island 2

      April 6, 2023 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 70 °F

      Sadly, in the 1960s political and common law prisoners were held together in the general section of the 7 prisons we saw there and spent their days serving hard labor. Some of the prominent leaders of the different liberation organizations were held in the isolation block’s B section, where high walls were constructed to separate and prevent communication between political prisoners in the different sections.

      The general and single cell sections of the Maximum Security Prison were designed to separate prisoners and prevent contact between them. The prisoners held in the single cells had far less contact (Mandela and his more influential friends) with their fellow prisoners and were locked in their cells for considerably longer hours. The food given to prisoners was generally insufficient in quantity and of poor quality. Additionally, prisoners of different races were given different food. White prisoners were fed 4 ounces of mielie meal or mielie rice and 7 ounces of fish or meat per day. Colored and Indian prisoners were given 14 ounces of mielie meal and mielie rice per day and six ounces of meat or fish four times a week. African prisoners were given 12 ounces of mielie meal and mielie rice per day and only 5 ounces of meat or fish four times a week. Daily, prisoners had to strip and jump around to dislodge any concealed object and bend over to prove it. Most of the brutality and physical abuse that prisoners experienced were associated with hard labor and beatings while they worked quarrying lime and stone, chopping wood, crushing stone, making, or repairing roads with picks and shovels, dragging seaweed from the beaches and the sea. Psychologically, over the years they were prevented from education, their letters were censored as were visits and they had little access to outside news. Prisoners were given minimal clothing with African prisoners getting short pants to separate them and were not provided with underwear. There were no beds and prisoners had to sleep on thin mats on a cement floor.

      Between 1962 and 1966 prisoners were subjected to physical abuse, given poor food and were not allowed to participate in sport, recreational, cultural and other such activities. A mass “Hunger Strike” in 1966, by a thousand prisoners, caressed the tides of change and the gradual improvement of conditions surfaced. Conditions regressed again under Colonel Badenhorst, a commanding officer in charge of the Island between 1970 and 1972.

      Robben Island had 20 quarries used to build all the buildings and road and many buildings back in Cape Town. Political Prisoners were forced to work the Bluestone Quarry (which we saw). Prisoners worked there every day for 6 month stints, many until exhaustion. When Mandela came back many years later, he and other Black leaders put up a stone monument there for those that had given their blood and guts and often their lives. Ironically, this is the site that much of the “revolution” plans to end apartheid was developed from leaders that may never have met each other and had different ideas and philosophies but shared out of desperation. It was the only place political prisoners were not isolated from others and where Mandela, Sobukwe, Biko and other leaders could discuss (as they worked) their ideas and share their thoughts as they developed plans to build a new World. The only other place they got to interact was the gardens (note: this is where they hid drafts of the Long Walk to Freedom).

      To get a full understanding of all the years of Robben Island and what transpired there, see:
      Read more

    • Day 4

      Waterfront und Robben Island

      October 26, 2023 in South Africa ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

      Am dritten Tag in Kapstadt haben wir die Waterfront kennengelernt. Ein lebhaftes, modernes Hafenviertel mit Gastronomie, Shoppingcentern, Musik und Artistik. Von dort ging es am Nachmittag mit dem Katamaran zur geschichtsträchtigen Gefängnisinsel 'Robben Island', 9 km vor Kapstadt. Dort wurden zwischen 1962 und 1991 neben Nelson Mandela viele weitere politische Gefangene festgehalten 😞 Im ehemaligen Hochsicherheitstrakt haben wie u.a. die Zelle gesehen, in der Mandela 18 Jahre verbracht hat. Ganze 4 qm mit Schlafmatte auf einem Steinfußboden 😳 Ein bedrückender Ort und eine sehr interessante Führung mit einem Ex-Häftling. Von dort gibt es jedoch auch einen schönen Blick auf Kapstadt. Das Abendessen gab es in einem Restaurant an der Waterfront 😋Read more

    • Day 82

      Cape Town, South Africa- Robben Island 1

      April 6, 2023 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 70 °F

      Robben Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

      Although the Island has been the place of isolation for 500 years for those that have been exiled as criminals, lepers, and mentally ill, it is most recently remembered from 1960-91 as a home for “political prisoners” (they never used that term but rather called them “criminals”). The most well known is Nelson Mandela for his 27 years in captivity for speaking out against the apartheid (“apartness” in the language of Afrikaans), racial segregation, system. Segregation which began in early 1900’s became much worse in the 1950’s when neighborhoods were separated, and Blacks were moved out of the city (i.e., District 6 where 60,000 Blacks were moved out to make it more White). Later, many of those that spoke out were “convicted” and sent to Robben Island. Thank God it has been a museum since 1997 to tell the story and preserve history.

      Robben Island was a maximum-security standalone prison that existed for many years but mostly built up around WWII between 1931-60 when the Island was an Army/Navy base. During this military period, the Island was not used as a prison but used to protect Allied interests up to 1945. Even then, racial segregation remained, as Black people were housed in separate inferior accommodations, while White male soldiers and engineers lived in the southern region of the Island in barracks in the village. The Department of Prisons took over the Island in 1961, dismantled some of the guns and established the infamous Maximum-Security Prison which is what the Island is mostly known for today.

      Interestingly, the quote (no one knows who said it) that fits this situation where the world just watched is: “Evil can only flourish if a few good people do nothing”. Mr. Mandela’s (as everyone on the Island refers to him out of respect) story is one of triumph of the human spirit over adversity, suffering and injustice. South Africa is an example that there is hope and things can always change. UBUNTU is a term used to mean HUMANITY. Hear Mr. Mandela’s description here:…

      As we learned from the passionate guide that provided us with the orientation of the Island, “this was never about South Africa, never about apartheid, and never about racism”! It was more about the process of breaking down a people, dividing them in order to conquer them, and making them fight amongst themselves. This is what happened with the Blacks of South Africa, who despite their being a majority in the population (80% of the people in SA were Black), they could not coordinate an effort to fight apartheid. It was about controlling their minds, indoctrinating an entire Nation, making them feel inferior, controlling the media to be fearful of Blacks and controlling the education system to get out false information on why apartheid was good for the people. Does this sound like a model from Nazi Germany and many other current breakdowns of civilization in our world? Yes, which is why we are told it’s not a Black/White racism issue.

      Our first guide (who had traveled with Mandela and had interesting anecdotes to tell) took us to the ferry for the hour trip to the Island. Our guide once we got there was very knowledgeable, and you could tell that telling this story was his mission, and so important to him that everyone should know what happened during this time. After an overview of this secluded Island, we were driven around the Island to see the port of entry, the quarry where the prisoners worked, the airport, the hospital, the town that built up to support the prison (churches and homes), how they got food and utilities there and then we arrived at The Prison. We had an hour of “personal time” in the Prison with Itumeleng Makwela, a former political prisoner that was here during end of the years of Mandela’s stay (DON’T MISS OUR VIDEO … see link
      Read more

    You might also know this place by the following names:

    Robben Island Museum

    Join us:

    FindPenguins for iOSFindPenguins for Android