On March 11, 2011, our second excursion included travels across the Atlantic Ocean by ferry to Robben Island, located in Cape Town, South Africa. Robben Island is most famous for its imprisonment of Nelson Mandela (South Africa’s
first democratic president) during the Apartheid Republic of South America. Although Nelson Mandela was imprisoned at Robben Island there were also 100’s of other anti-apartheid political activist there as well. During 1961-1996 the prison housed indigenous African leaders, Muslim leaders from the East Indies, Dutch & British soldiers and civilians and anti-apartheid activists. Robben Island has been inhabited since the 1600’s. In World War II it served as a training and defense station as wells as hospital isolating people suffering from leprosy.
During the period of 1961- 1996 the prison held maximum security prisoners of political as well as criminal crimes. Although Apartheid officially ended in 1994 all of the political prisoners were freed in 1991. Today during a tour of the island a visitor has the opportunity to meet and discuss with former prisoners (now guides) of the prison the day to day struggles of their lives there. Several of the former political slaves have returned to the island to live in co-existence with their former oppressors, the guards of the prison. The small community of individuals live and work at the prison with their families.
The prison currently houses a museum, the Robben Island Museum created for the purpose and vision of developing the island as a national and International heritage ad conservation institution. One of the biggest challenges the islanders are facing today is the ability, in regards to resources to keep the island up to the expectations of the State to ensure it is allowed to continue to educate individuals. Robben Island was known best for its ability to isolate and imprison so many of South Africa’s most prominent anti-Apartheid leaders. However, today it embraces the legacy of educating the public on not only the struggle of the aforementioned but the incredible strength of the leaders who fought to end the era of Apartheid. The museum is a living reminder of how far South Africa has come in regards to its anti-Apartheid efforts and many of the challenges it will face and conquer in regards to the rights developed and implemented in its Constitution.