Tuesday, 10 December 2013

“This is the island. This is where you will die.” These were the words which greeted Nelson Mandela on his first day of imprisonment on Robben Island.

I will never forget my first sight of Robben Island. It was 2012, exactly half a century after Mandela’s incarceration...

Seeing the prison (and standing in Mandela's cell) I began to appreciate the significance of what these men went through: the beatings, humiliations, and false charges; their thousands of days of imprisonment. I’m reminded of this again as we celebrate the life, and mourn the death, of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. The pre-eminent leader in the liberation struggle, Mandela showed the world how to choose forgiveness over bitterness, reconciliation over vengeance, and love over hate.

I wasn’t sorry to leave Robben Island behind; it isn’t a place for humans. It was a rough ferry ride back to Cape Town, and the guide’s final words stayed with me all the way: “Remember, freedom doesn’t fall from the sky.”



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