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Cape Town Tourism

Robben Island – Nelson Mandela

Robben IslandSouth Africa changed due to external pressure and internal will of the foremost black leaders. Over 400 years Robben Island was a place where the rulers sent their political critics. The island lies just 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from Cape Town in South Africa. There were both criminal and political prisoners detained in inhumane conditions. Today, we are guided by former prisoners who tell what it was like to live there.

In addition to Nelson Mandela's cell, visitors get acquainted with the island's history, buildings, and the prisoners' demands for humane treatment. For many prisoners the prison was their university, as they were trained by many of the nation's leading academics who also were in prison. The teaching was often in the common bathroom near the quarry where guards dd not want to go.

Robben Island is a symbol of human cruelty as well as human survival. They got survival out of the community and the spiritual heritage they were a part of.

Those who were regarded as political troublemakers and undesirables were sent to the island to be kept in captivity, isolation, and work in exile. Nelson Mandela was born in 1918. He was in opposition to the racist regime in South Africa and was known as the Black Pimpernel in the 1960s. In 1962 he was imprisoned on Robben Island for the first time. In 1964 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for sabotage and conspiracy against the state. He had to stay on the island until 1982. He was then imprisioned on the mainland to 1990. In 1994 elections were held in South Africa and Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. Robben Island is now a monument to human resistance against the forces of evil. A triumph over anti-racism, prejudice and intolerance.

A triumph for the new South Africa over the old

A Tribute to Nelson MandelaNelson Mandela

Message from Nelson Mandela: "I believe that South Africa is the most beautiful place on earth. Admittedly, I am biased, but when you combine the natural beauty of South Africa with the friendliness and cultural diversity of our people, and the fact that the region is a haven for Africa's most splendid wildlife, then I think even the most scrupulous critic would agree that we have been blessed with a truly wonderful land. I would like to extend a personal invitation to you to come and see for yourself the splendour of South Africa. I know that my people will be delighted to welcome you and I think you will be enchanted by their warmth and hospitality. I am equally sure that you will enjoy our culture, our cuisine and the warmth of our people."

Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa, 1994-1999