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PADDY'S SOUTH AFRICAN TOUR
ROBBEN ISLAND

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Monday February 16, 2010.  We visited Robben Island. "Robben" means "seals" in Dutch. Since the end of the 17th Century, the island has been used to isolate certain people; at first it was a leper colony, but later it became a prison for political prisoners, leaders of various Dutch colonies, including Indonesia. During WW II the island was fortified and guns were installed as part of the defenses for Cape Town. It was here that opponents of the Apartheid regimen were kept, Nelson Mandela among them.

                   

                             

 

Living conditions were very poor. Prisoners had to labor in the quarries, were not sufficiently dressed, & had to sleep on a thin straw mat on the floor. There were also mercilessly punished for any transgressions, no matter how small. Sobukwe was the leader of a march against the hated Pass Law, by which all blacks had to carry a pass or be detained. Nelson Mandela spent almost 27 years here. His cell was no different from the other inmates. (3rd & 4th pictures below). He also tended some plants, his "garden". (5th picture)

                   

 

We had as a guide a former inmate, who told us he had been "in the wrong place at the wrong time", and he showed us around the different areas of the prison

                   

                   

 

Shortly after Mandela was released, the prison ceased to operate as such, although people still live in the island. Services are provided; churches, a school, and a post office exist, as well as a mosque. Islam was brought to Robben Island by the many slaves from the East. An old gun emplacement from WW II still stands.

         

 

Table Mountain would be the next stop.

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