The Long Hard Fight for Freedom (Kirsty’s blog) Saturday 19th June published Wednesday 23rd June
What a wonderful city Cape Town is, we could have done with another week there to cram everything in that we’d like to do, we did however manage to squeeze in a trip in to Robben Island, very poignant it was too. It’s incredible to think that the horrific conditions suffered by Nelson Mandela and the other political prisoners was taking place as recently as the 1980’s. Sparks, an ex political prisoner showed us around the prison and explained the unbelievably harsh conditions they had to endure, being black meant that they had the lowest food rations despite working for eight hours a day mining rock, they also had no shoes or long trousers even in winter, no glass at the windows or heating in their massively over crowded communal barrack style cells where the rain would pour in, washing facilites were almost non exsistant, though perhaps the cruellest of all is the fact that asian and coloured prisoners were given bettter rations and more clothing but the black prisoners were treated worse than any human or indeed any animal should ever be treated.
They kept the political prisoners incarcerated with serious and violent criminals in the hope that it would criminalise them, when in fact it worked the other way round and the criminal prisoners became political activists and helped the cause on their release.
The whole trip was very moving, upsetting and at times made me angry that in our lifetime this kind of treatment of fellow human beings and racist persecution could have taken place. Sparks was an amazingly gentle man who now works at Robben Island alongside his previous prison guards and men who meted out punishment to him for more than seven years, having been imprisoned there as a young boy of nineteen. I find it extraordinary that he can now live and work alongside his previously cruel captors and has even become friends with some of them, that must take an enormous level of forgiveness, though as Sparks pointed out, apartheid is no more, he now has his freedom and his life…many many young men weren’t so lucky and lost their lives fighting for freedom.
Nelson Mandela and all of the political prisoners fought for many years for freedom from apartheid though I find their capacity to forgive and the creation of the Rainbow Nation the most amazing feat of all, I’m truly humbled by it.
We walked around the island, spotted penguins and ambled back to the boat in quiet contemplation of what life must have been like there and more than once I looked at Andy and saw tears rolling down his face.
Once on the boat a couple of girls sat behind us and one of them was American, now I must apologise to any American friends however she had a particularly high pitched, nasally and hugely annoying voice. She then proceeded to moan about absolutely everything, but the amazing thing was the pettiness of her griping…her cheese portion was too small, her washing wasn’t folded right, someone had a better TV in their room than her, when she asked for directions she felt the person could have given more detail, she didn’t like the way someone held a book, I kid you not! It was driving me insane and I suggested loudly to Andy that never mind water boarding, they could use this woman as a form of torture, she’d make the most secretive spy squeal like a pig
The most annoying thing was that she’d just been on exactly the same tour of the prison as us but obviously her hardship and suffering was far more important…selfish twit! (or indeed insert you’re own noun).
Off on the Garden Route tomorrow to find ourselves in the Wilderness…can’t wait.