Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Trip to Robben Island

Boxing Day started off for just one of us with a trip to Robben Island. (The Christmas chardonnay must have gotten to the other one!)

A bright beautiful day, with plenty of crowds down by the Victoria and Albert Waterfront, some to see some ocean racing by the yachts taking part in the Volvo RTW Challenge. Many just out enjoying the sunshine and the hustle and bustle of the place.

Robben Island is a very popular destination for local and foreihn tourists alike and there are many catamarans leaving for the well-organised tour of this monument to politics gone wrong. It started off as a penal colony in the times of the Dutch, taken over by the English and latterly by the racist apartheid Afrikaners of the(now thankfully deceased) National Party. It represents so much to the epople here of South Africa as almost all the leaders of teh movements which eventually gave them freedom from the terrors of white-man rule were at some time, and many for a long time, imprisoned here in terrible (and racist) conditions.

We were shown around the main prison site by an ex-detainee who told personal stories of his suffering. Very touching it was. I took many photos of people listening to THEIR history. Also moving to see.

Of course, we all wanted to see where Nelson Mandela and the other main leaders were incercerated, but there were lots of people and we didn't have too much time.

It is also a nature reserve with many mnay sea birds including a large colony of penguins, cormorants and sacred ibises, as well as gannets mastering the skies.

The views across to Table Mountian and Cape Town beneath it were spectacular. How strange for the in-mates to be so near and so far away from their country.

It would be nice to think that places like Robben Island are a thing of the past as we can all agree how bad and degrading they are. So it is quite saddening to hear the so-called leader of the world - the US government, try to justify torture, imprisonment without charge or trial and the existence of degrading camps in Iraq, Guatanemo Bay and who-knows-where in Europe? What a price they are paying for their war on terrorism in terms of using methods which do not belong in a civilised society. Who was it who said that one should judge society not by how it treats its richest citizens but its pooorest?

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