Nelson Mandela in Robben Island prison facts
Robben Island is known for being the place,the former South African president Nelson Mandela was jailed for 18 of his 27 years.The long walk of Nelson Mandela in Robben Island.
Tour of Robben Island and Nelson Mandela's cell, Cape Town
Mandela came to the opinion that the ANC ;had no alternative to armed and violent resistance" after taking part in the unsuccessful protest to prevent the demolition of the all-black Sophiatown suburb of Johannesburg in February 1955. He advised Sisulu to request weaponry from the People's Republic of China, but though supporting the anti-apartheid struggle, China's government believed the movement insufficiently prepared for guerilla warfare. With the involvement of the South African Indian Congress, the Coloured People's Congress, the South African Congress of Trade Unions and the Congress of Democrats, the ANC planned a Congress of the People, calling on all South Africans to send in proposals for a post-apartheid era. Based on the responses, a Freedom Charter was drafted by Rusty Bernstein, calling for the creation of a democratic, non-racialist state with the nationalisation of major industry. When the charter was adopted at a June 1955 conference in Kliptown attended by 3000 delegates, police cracked down on the event, but it remained a key part of Mandela's ideology.Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison on Robben Island. Nelson Mandela in Robben Island prison facts.
Following the end of a second ban in September 1955, Mandela went on a working holiday to Transkei to discuss the implications of the Bantu Authorities Act, 1951 with local tribal leaders, also visiting his mother and Noengland before proceeding to Cape Town. In March 1956 he received his third ban on public appearances, restricting him to Johannesburg for five years, but he often defied it. His marriage broke down as Evelyn left Mandela, taking their children to live with her brother. Initiating divorce proceedings in May 1956, she claimed that Mandela had physically abused her; he denied the allegations, and fought for custody of their children. She withdrew her petition of separation in November, but Mandela filed for divorce in January 1958; the divorce was finalised in March, with the children placed in Evelyn's care. During the divorce proceedings, he began courting and politicising a social worker, Winnie Madikizela, who he married in Bizana on 14 June 1958. She later became involved in ANC activities, spending several weeks in prison.
The apartheid system pervaded all areas of life.
On 5 December 1956, Mandela was arrested alongside most of the ANC Executive for "high treason" against the state. Held in Johannesburg Prison amid mass protests, they underwent a preparatory examination in Drill Hall on 19 December, before being granted bail. The defence's refutation began on 9 January 1957, overseen by defence lawyer Vernon Berrangé, and continued until adjourning in September. In January 1958, judge Oswald Pirow was appointed to the case, and in February he ruled that there was "sufficient reason" for the defendants to go on trial in the Transvaal Supreme Court.The formal Treason Trial began in Pretoria in August 1958, with the defendants successfully applying to have the three judges – all linked to the governing National Party – replaced. In August, one charge was dropped, and in October the prosecution withdrew its indictment, submitting a reformulated version in November which argued that the ANC leadership committed high treason by advocating violent revolution, a charge the defendants denied, Nelson Mandela in Robben Island prison facts
In April 1959, militant Africanists dissatisfied with the ANC's united front approach founded the Pan-African Congress (PAC); Mandela's friend Robert Sobukwe was elected president, though Mandela thought the group "immature". Both parties campaigned for an anti-pass campaign in May 1960, in which Africans burned the passes that they were legally obliged to carry. One of the PAC-organised demonstrations was fired upon by police, resulting in the deaths of 69 protesters in the Sharpeville massacre. In solidarity, Mandela publicly burned his pass as rioting broke out across South Africa, leading the government to proclaim martial law.Under the State of Emergency measures, Mandela and other activists were arrested on 30 March, imprisoned without charge in the unsanitary conditions of the Pretoria Local prison, and the ANC and PAC were banned in April. This made it difficult for their lawyers to reach them, and it was agreed that the defence team for the Treason Trial should withdraw in protest. Representing themselves in court, the accused were freed from prison when the state of emergency was lifted in late August. Mandela used his free time to organise an All-In African Conference near Pietermaritzburg, Natal, in March, at which 1,400 anti-apartheid delegates met, agreeing on a stay-at-home protest to mark 31 May, the day South Africa became a republic. On 29 March 1961, after a six-year trial, the judges produced a verdict of not guilty,Nelson Mandela in Robben Island prison facts, embarrassing the government.
Robben Island: 1964–1982
Mandela and his co-accused were transferred from Pretoria to the prison on Robben Island, remaining there for the next 18 years. Isolated from non-political prisoners in Section B, Mandela was imprisoned in a damp concrete cell measuring 8 feet (2.4 m) by 7 feet (2.1 m), with a straw mat on which to sleep. Verbally and physically harassed by several white prison wardens, the Rivonia Trial prisoners spent their days breaking rocks into gravel, until being reassigned in January 1965 to work in a lime quarry. Mandela was initially forbidden to wear sunglasses, and the glare from the lime permanently damaged his eyesight. At night, he worked on his LLB degree, but newspapers were forbidden, and he was locked in solitary confinement on several occasions for possessing smuggled news clippings. Classified as the lowest grade of prisoner, Class D, he was permitted one visit and one letter every six months, although all mail was heavily censored.
The political prisoners took part in work and hunger strikes – the latter considered largely ineffective by Mandela – to improve prison conditions, viewing this as a microcosm of the anti-apartheid struggle. ANC prisoners elected him to their four-man ;High Organ; along with Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba, and he involved himself in a group representing all political prisoners on the island, Ulundi, through which he forged links with PAC and Yu Chi Chan Club members. Initiating the ;University of Robben Island;, whereby prisoners lectured on their own areas of expertise, he debated topics such as homosexuality and politics with his comrades, getting into fierce arguments on the latter with Marxists like Mbeki and Harry Gwala. Though attending Christian Sunday services, Mandela studied Islam. He also studied Afrikaans, hoping to build a mutual respect with the warders and convert them to his cause. Various official visitors met with Mandela; most significant was the liberal parliamentary representative Helen Suzman of the Progressive Party, who championed Mandela's cause outside prison. In September 1970 he met British Labour Party MP Dennis Healey. South African Minister of Justice Jimmy Kruger visited in December 1974, but he and Mandela did not get on. His mother visited in 1968, dying shortly after, and his firstborn son Thembi died in a car accident the following year; Mandela was forbidden from attending either funeral. His wife was rarely able to visit, being regularly imprisoned for political activity, and his daughters first visited in December 1975; Winnie got out of prison in 1977 but was forcibly settled in Brandfort, still unable to visit him,Nelson Mandela in Robben Island prison facts.
The inside of Mandela's prison cell as it was when he was imprisoned in 1964 and his open cell window facing the prison yard on Robben Island, now a national and World Heritage Site. Mandela's cell later contained more furniture, including a bed from around 1973.
From 1967, prison conditions improved; black prisoners were given trousers rather than shorts, games were permitted, and the standard of their food was raised. Mandela later commented on how football "made us feel alive and triumphant despite the situation we found ourselves in". In 1969, an escape plan for Mandela was developed by Gordon Bruce, but it was abandoned after being infiltrated by an agent of the South African Bureau of State Security (BOSS), who hoped to see Mandela shot during the escape. In 1970, Commander Piet Badenhorst became commanding officer. Mandela, seeing an increase in the physical and mental abuse of prisoners, complained to visiting judges, who had Badenhorst reassigned.He was replaced by Commander Willie Willemse, who developed a co-operative relationship with Mandela and was keen to improve prison standards.
By 1975, Mandela had become a Class A prisoner, allowing greater numbers of visits and letters; he corresponded with anti-apartheid activists like Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Desmond Tutu. That year, he began his autobiography, which was smuggled to London, but remained unpublished at the time; prison authorities discovered several pages, and his study privileges were stopped for four years. Instead he devoted his spare time to gardening and reading until he resumed his LLB degree studies in 1980.
By the late 1960s, Mandela's fame had been eclipsed by Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). Seeing the ANC as ineffectual, the BCM called for militant action, but following the Soweto uprising of 1976, many BCM activists were imprisoned on Robben Island. Mandela tried to build a relationship with these young radicals, although he was critical of their racialism and contempt for white anti-apartheid activists. Renewed international interest in his plight came in July 1978, when he celebrated his 60th birthday. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in Lesotho, the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in India in 1979, and the Freedom of the City of Glasgow, Scotland in 1981. In March 1980 the slogan "Free Mandela!" was developed by journalist Percy Qoboza, sparking an international campaign that led the UN Security Council to call for his release. Despite increasing foreign pressure, the government refused, relying on powerful foreign Cold War allies in US President Ronald Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; both considered Mandela a communist terrorist and supported the suppression of the ANC.
Nelson Mandela's prison numbers
5 August 1962: Arrested
7 November 1962: Sentenced to five years for leaving the country without a passport and incitement. Begins serving his sentence at the Pretoria Local Prison
Prisoner number: 19476/62
27 May 1963: Transferred to Robben Island
12 June 1963: Transferred back to Pretoria Local Prison
Prisoner number: 11657/63
11 June 1964: Convicted of sabotage along with Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Govan Mbeki, Elias Motsoaledi, Denis Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni
12 June 1964: Sentenced to life imprisonment with Sisulu, Kathrada, Mhlaba, Mbeki, Motsoaledi, Goldberg and Mlangeni
13 June 1964: Arrives on Robben Island with Sisulu, Kathrada, Mhlaba, Mbeki, Motsoaledi and Mlangeni. Goldberg is sent to Pretoria as he is white
Prisoner number: 466/64
31 March 1982: Transferred to Pollsmoor Prison with Sisulu, Mhlaba and Mlangeni. They are joined by Kathrada in October
Prisoner number: 220/82
28 February 1985: Goldberg is released
5 November 1987: Mbeki is released from Robben Island
12 August 1988: Taken to Tygerberg Hospital where TB is diagnosed
31 August 1988: Transferred to Constantiaberg MediClinic
7 December 1988: Transferred to Victor Verster Prison
Prisoner number: 1335/88
15 October 1989: Sisulu, Kathrada, Mhlaba, Motsoaledi and Mlangeni released with Oscar Mpetha and Jeff Masemola
11 February 1990: Madiba released from Victor Verster Prison