Excerpt from Observer column by Jean Lowrie-Chin - 8 June 2014
|The sum total of 'furnishings' in the cell at Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent the first 18 years of his 27-year imprisonment|
Two weeks ago I wrote about Johannesburg and Soweto, as we had been on a visit to South Africa. The following week, we journeyed to Cape Town and took the ferry across to Robben Island, where we were stunned by the size of the cell where Nelson Mandela spent the first 18 years of his imprisonment.
Our guide, a former prisoner, pointed out that the dog kennels were bigger than the 8ft by 7ft cell in which he was locked down each day from 3.30pm until 7am the following morning. We saw the items in the cell, just as they were when the great man was kept there: a bucket, a stool, a straw mat and four blankets.
|An ex-prisoner describes the harsh conditions on Robben Island|
That Mr Mandela could emerge after 27 years, forgive his captors and demit office after four and a half years, has set a searing example for his fellow South Africans. So many humble folks we met channeled his dignity, courtesy and humility. Punctuality is an outstanding hallmark of South Africans of every walk of life. Let our leaders understand that the best teacher of a people is the example set by those in authority.
|With my friends Minna Israel and Sharon Lake standing in front of the cell where Mr Mandela was detained.|
We toured the winelands and enroute to Franschhoek, stopped at the low-security Groot Drakenstein Prison where Mr Mandela spent his final years of arrest, and from which he walked free in January 1990.
|Sharon, Minna and Hubie, just before ascending Table Mtn|
With our friends Minna Israel and Sharon Lake, we took the cable car to the top of the Table Mountain, and dreamt of such a facility being in place to explore our beautiful Blue Mountains. Our visit ended with a two-day safari at the Pilanesburg nature preserve, a 55,000-acre expanse near Johannesburg, where the young ranger explained that lateness and poor vehicle maintenance were punished by tough duties. Let’s take a page from South Africa’s book!