I want to share with you the most inspiring place I’ve been to in 2018: Robben Island. Even though it sounds like a place to visit for vacations, it has once been one of the roughest prisons in South Africa. Robben Island is the place where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for almost 18 years out of his 27 years in prison for his fight against apartheid.
Apartheid is a system of radical segregation that governed South Africa for nearly 50 years. It was introduced to maintain the domination of South Africans of European descent over non-whites in every part of life.
It was a strange feeling walking down the island, walking around in the prison yard where Mandela was forced to do physical labor and visiting his former cell. You have surely heard something about Mandela. However, here are the most important facts you need to know about him.
What you should know about Nelson Mandela
- When he was born on the 18 July 1918 in a Cape Province of the Union of South Africa, his name was Rolihlahla Mandela. His birth name means „troublemaker.“ He was given the name Nelson in school when he was seven years old, because it was supposedly too difficult for his English teacher to procurance Rolihlahla. It was a common practice to give English names to South African students.
- His father served as chief of the village he grew up in. When he died Mandela was nine years old and the tribal regent took his legal guardianship.
- The regent paid all his school and university fees, so that he had a chance to get very good education.
- He was expelled from the University of Fort Hare for his involvement in a student strike against the apartheid rules of the college.
- In 1943, Nelson Mandela received his B.A. in Law.
- When he found out that the regent arranged a marriage with a woman he did not fancy, he fled to Johannesburg.
- He started working at a law firm in Johannesburg and was so badly paid that he couldn’t even afford food every day or take the bus to work.
- In the law office, he was not allowed to drink tea at the same time and from the same cups as his white colleagues. He ignored this rule.
- He was warned by his colleagues to not get involved in politics.
- Nevertheless, Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1944, and formed the ANC Youth League along with some others during the same year. The group was displeased by the policies and principles of the Congress, and wanted to construct their own party.
- There were 148 apartheid laws like the “Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act” or “The Preventation of Illegal Squatting Act” (the power to remove blacks from public or privately owned land and to establish resettlement camps to house these displaced people).
- In 1952, Nelson Mandela was convicted under the “Suppression of Communism Act”, and was banned from leaving Johannesburg and participating in public gatherings.
- In 1962, Mandela received guerrilla training in Algeria, Morocco and Ethiopia.
- Mandela’s first court statement in Pretoria, October, 1962 was called ‘Black Man In A White Man’s Court’.
- On 5th August 1962, Nelson Mandela was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiracy to overthrow the government, a judgment that was seen as a victory because the death sentence was not imposed.
- In 1968, both his mother and son passed away. He was not permitted out of prison to attend their funerals.
- While he was in prison, he was told that if he was to cease his fight against apartheit, he would be allowed to go free. He did not agree to this provision.
- During the time in prison, he finished his education while educating his fellow prisoners to adopt a nonviolent approach to receive better treatment in prison.
- Mandela was diagnosed with Tuberculosis in 1988.
- In 1993, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the man who had released him, President Frederik Willem de Klerk, because they had agreed on a peaceful transition to majority rule.
- In 1994, he became the first black president of South Africa.
- He died on December 5, 2013 at the age of 95.
„I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear“Nelson Mandela
„No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated“Nelson Mandela
„As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison“Nelson Mandela
“A Nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but it’s lowest ones”Nelson Mandela
Robben Island today is a place of hope and serves as a symbol to never give up your (political) dreams and goals.
I recommend Mandela’s autobiography “Long walk to Freedom” to everybody wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the historical events mentioned earlier and if you get the chance, visit Robben Island. It’s surreal that, while the apartheid regime had not even existed for 50 years, these struggles and resistance had been necessary to achieve dignity, equality and freedom for every citizen.
Robben Island today is a place of hope and serves as a symbol to never give up your (political) dreams and goals. It reminds us that we have to fight for them, as well as of the sacrifices countless men, women and children had to suffer through and one might have to endure oneself. Mandela himself was a lawyer. Even though he lived under an unjust regime, he started off by working with the existing law, and by winning (smaller) cases he was able bring some justice into South Africa.
It is important not forget to the struggle of the activist and ex – wife of Nelson, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who, whilst Nelson Mandela was in jail, pushed further the fight against apartheid and played a decisive role, often serving jail time and punishment herself.
To close, I wish you all a happy new year. Let’s end 2018 and start 2019 with:
“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires“
#robbenisland #mandela #southafrica #capetown thankstoS