The stunning view of the V&A (Victoria & Albert) Waterfront was luckily well worth the wait. We looked forward to visiting the harbor, that was built between 1860 and 1920 and had a number of outstanding heritage buildings, on our return from Robben Island.
The wooden boat below looked to be the same one we'd seen yesterday while relaxing on the beach and watching the world go by.
The seal helped to entertain us as we left the harbor! The home to so many prisoners was called dubbed “Robben” (the Dutch word for seal) Island by early settlers because of the seal population at the time.
We were so glad we had been able to get seats on the top deck for the short trip across the bay and that we were actually able to travel on the ferry. We had been advised, when we made the reservation several months earlier, that it wasn't at all unusual for the ferry not to be able to travel because the bay wasn't always as calm and innocent as it looked that day.
We drove past the Cape Town Stadium from our lodge on our way into town each day but this was a much better perspective obviously for the sports complex that was built for the 2010 FIFA (Soccer) World Cup!
Robben Island needs no introduction with regards to the significance of its place in South Africa’s and indeed the world’s history. As “home” to one of the world’s most famous prisoners, statesmen and leaders in Nelson Mandela, Robben Island is quite possibly the most well known island-prison on the planet.
This was unfortunately all I could view of the island's Garrison Church that was built in 1841 and later used for the warders and their families. When warders' wives gave birth to a son, a blue flag was raised at the church. No mention was made of what happened when girls were born though!
From this spot to Cape Town was a distance of about 7.5 miles. In the 1660s, one prisoner manged to steal a boat and successfully escaped from Robben Island. He was the only man ever to do so.
I had to wait several minutes for my turn to have Steven take my picture in the 'picture frame.' I thought it was so neat as I hadn't seen one before.
The Church of Good Shepherd was formerly a hospital before becoming an Anglican Church, the dominant religion in Britain.
This part of the prison was built from 1962-69 out of blue slate stone mined on the island to hold a maximum of 2,150 prisoners.
Everybody in F Section was charged with high treason, terrorism, aiding and abetting and other similar crimes, according to our guide. He mentioned that the minimum sentence was five years and the maximum was life imprisonment and that there was no possibility of either clemency or pardon. He added that all prisoners' hands and feet were shackled from the moment they arrived on Robben Island by ferry from the mainland.
Upon arrival, prisoners were sent to Section A to be assessed and profiled before the authorities decided where the prisoners would go next. Our guide stated the youngest prisoner was only 15 when he arrived at Robben Island and that he had been just 19. The oldest prisoner to be confined was 60 and wasn't released until he was 79. There were two men imprisoned for 26 years from 1963-89; they were the co-founders of the PAC.
There was no section for either juveniles or lifers - all were lumped together. Block B was set aside for leaders of political organizations but I was surprised to learn that not all inmates were from South Africa. There were 150 prisoners incarcerated from Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland. If you weren't a leader or a foreigner, our guide stated you'd be kept anywhere in the prison.
This long, narrow room housed 60 men, each of who was given 2 blankets; one was used in the summertime as a pillow. The blankets, he revealed, had to be rolled up when not in use. In 1974, glass windows were introduced in the cells; before that, there were only iron bars over the windows. In 1978, double bunks were added. Music was played in the cells but reggae and Bob Marley were not among the musical offerings!
The prisoners were also occasionally visited by judges who inspected their living conditions and asked if they were OK and being treated well. In a strange twist of fate, though, these were the same judges who had just sentenced many of them to serve their sentences at Robben Island!
There were 17 hunger strikes - the longest one lasted 21 days in 1967 and the shortest one was 4.5 days. The dispute was over the prisoners wanting white sugar instead of brown sugar. The guide revealed that he had grown up eating brown sugar, but since brotherhood and unity was key to realizing their objectives, he joined the hunger strike so that white sugar would be served. He joked that he was now back to eating brown sugar!
A Man and his Tree: When old prisoners congregated under this tree, their favorite topic of discussion was possible paroles. They were always on the lookout for any news of their fellow prisoners being released on medical grounds or transferred to another jail. Prison authorities also saw an opportunity to extend their abuse of these old men by giving them false news and hope about their release saying they would be given their freedom in two to three months. The men would wait in anticipation for the time of their release and excitedly share that news with their cell mates. They later learned the truth that they had been deceived.
Velelen Dayeni, serving 25 years, was one of the longest serving prisoners at Robben Island. He died seated under this tree during the lunch hour, without complaining of any ailment. Dayeni's death led to a psychological change of the meaning of this tree: it was no longer known as the tree of parole discussions but as the place of his death.
After spending a riveting hour inside one of the cells hearing first-hand about life as a prisoner on Robben Island, the guide led us outside to see some of the other facilities.
Matspan Reference Group members were required to make mats from sisal and other materials for prison use on Robben Island as well as in other prisons.
This photo, taken by a British journalist of Mandela talking in one of the courtyards with Walter Sisulu, one of the most famous anti-apartheid activists, was used by the prison authorities as a piece of propaganda to demonstrate the 'dignified life' the prisoners led on Robben Island and how well Mandela and others were being treated.
We then entered Block B where the political leaders were imprisoned so that they would be separated from the other inmates.
Posted on February 2nd, 2017 from Littleton, Colorado.