Robben Island – Off the coast of Cape Town and famous for its political prisoners, especially, Nelson Mandela.   The name means seal island and it does have seals, penguins, antelopes and prolific bird life.  It appears a peaceful place, far from the throb of Cape Town but the reminders of the brutality of apartheid are preserved for those intRobben Island Prisonerested enough to take the little ferry across Robben Island Prisonand visit.

Nelson Mandela and his fellow prisoners had found this island an impossible place to escape and they suffered long years of an intolerable, incarcerated, existence.  Today, ex-political prisoners conduct tours around the prison and island.  They show you Mandela’s cell and the lime quarry, where he and other ‘enemies of the state’, were forced into back-breaki3686 Mandela's Cell Robben Islandng labour.   Chilling stories of the previous apartheid policies and punishments, are told calmly, without hatred, by these guides as they relate their personal stories.

You leave, more than just a little subdued, chastened by the compassion and courage of these men who had shared a little of their lives and taught you some important history.  You also leave learning a little more about the humanity among the prisoners and their desire to forgive.   Ahmed Kathrada was one. Not as well-known as some of the others, he was imprisoned for 26 years, aftLimestone Quarry  Robben Island  South Africaer which he could write

“While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument of our hardship and suffering.  We would want it to be a triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil.  A triumph of wisdom and largeness of spirit against small minds and pettiness; a triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness; a triumph of the new South Africa over the old”.

I’ve been to Robben Island many times – it is a must if you are going to try to understand South Africa.