Africa Blog

The Ride to Half a Million Miles

Robben Island

Robben Island was an inland prison just off the shores of Cape Town much like Alcatraz in the USA.   Robben Island was created as a prison by the Dutch who first settled here.

  The name Robben is dutch for seal inland.   The inland has a history of being a prison for more than 400 years  housing criminals of all types. 

   During South Africa's apartheid years Robben Island was used to house any non white political opponent to the government. 

   The most internationally know was Nelson Mandela.  Mandela was held here for 18 of his 27 years in prison.

     As you would imagine it was a very small 6 x 6 foot cell with no bed.   Solitary confinement was often used to brake the will of people.   When not in solitary Mandela along with other political leaders were chained to stumps in this courtyard to crush stones with their hands.  The stones were not used for anything,  other than to give  the prisoners something to do.  

     As we approached one of our stops our guild made mention that a motorbike was parked outside of the building.

      The bike belongs to Christo Brand.  Christo started working at Robben Island as a prison guard when he was just 18.    Along the years Christo became Mandela's guard.      

   When Mandela was transferred to a different prison Christo was also transferred with him.   Christo became a very personal friend of Mandela and even after Mandela's release from prison in 1991 Christo maintained a close friendship and contact with Mandela.