Interesting and educational
06/20/2010 - 06/20/2010 65 °F
Today was the scheduled day for Robben Island. Unfortunately, it was Gwen’s turn to be attacked by Chaka Zulu Revenge. She was up sick all night long and unable to go on the Nelson Mandela tour. She was really sick and the ferry ride over would have done her in. Tobias and Sina joined us and continued to work on game ticket arrangements. Since we were only five, we rode in one car down to the V&A waterfront to catch the ferry to Robben Island.
The ferry ride over to the island was on a catamaran. The ride was cool, crisp and nice with an excellent view of the city and the stadium from the water. At the island, there were tons of birds perched along the docks of the harbor. Upon arriving, the crowd just kind of wandered as there was no real directions. We finally figured out we would supposed to get on one of the guide/tour buses. Our bus tour guide, Kent, was excellent. Despite his comments to the opposite, he was very well spoken and very funny as well.
We learned of Robert Sobukwe, the only prisoner charge as a political activist (Mandela and others were charged as terrorists). It seems that the blacks in South Africa had to carry passbooks (“stupid books”) that showed they were registered and where they were allowed to go. Along with that, they were not allowed on the streets after the 7pm horns sounds. Mr Sobukwe arranged a protest where people burned their books in front the police stations. The thinking was that there would be too many of them to place into prisons and that the Apartheid would have to abandon the books. Instead the police fired guns at the crowds killing many innocent people and Sobukwe was arrested. He was sentence to three years in prison. At the end of his sentence, he was then labeled as a political enemy and moved to Robben Island. He lived in a small build right next to the prison guard dog kennels (pictured).
At the formal prison, there were many different blocks/sections. Section B was the one for “leaders” like Mandela that had to be kept way from the other prisoners so as not to organize them. As depicted in the Invictus movie, he cell for more than 10 years was a small little cell without even a cot or a toilet. They used buckets and got to empty them once a day. They got 2 half hour breaks in the common grounds, which for Section B was still just a large isolated courtyard without any view to the outside.
Our prison tour guide was a former inmate. He was sentence to Robben Island for High Treason, but did not fulfill his sentence as Apartheid ended and Robben Island prisoners were released before his years were up. He indicated that some of the guards were really bad people and some were very nice. The guards like Robben Island because the gangsters were in the other prisons. But to avoid the guards becoming too close to prisoners, they were only allowed to work there two years and were shipped off if found to be too friendly with the prisoners. Phil asked our guide what he had done and he told us his story, candidly and frankly. He was a member of passive activist groups and participated in many non-violent protests. However, at one protest, he witnessed the police shooting his pregnant girlfriend in the mouth and kill her. He then became radicalized. He left the country without permission and began militant training in Angola and West Germany. He learned training in munitions and explosives. He came back and got caught in a failed attempt to blow up a petrol tanker with a bazooka.
A sober day indeed.
We had lunch at a Thai restaurant and caught part of the New Zealand vs. Italy game (wow). They went shopping at the Green Market square and I returned to check on Gwen and watch the rest of the Italy game. Gwen was doing much better, had some toast down. I got her some Asian food from around the corner. Phil came back to dump off stuff and we headed to meet the others at the Zulu bar to watch the Brazil vs. Ivory Coast game, where we sat up close to a large but poor quality screen. We just weren’t feeling the band after the game, so we called it a night.
Quip of the day: Our tour guide “I don’t have a second language, but English is my third”. I would love to be as fluent as him in another language…