Collecting profiles of people who were exiled or worked on the infamous Robben Island penal colony off the Cape Coast of South Africa
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From Wikipedia UNESCO World Heritage Site Coordinates 33.806734°S 18.366222°E
Robben Island (Afrikaans: Robbeneiland) is an island in Table Bay, 6.9 km west of the coast of Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, South Africa. The name is Dutch for "seal island".
Since the end of the 17th century, Robben Island has been used for the isolation of mainly political prisoners. The Dutch settlers were the first to use Robben Island as a prison. Its first prisoner was probably Harry die strandloper in the mid-17th century. Amongst its early permanent inhabitants were political leaders from various Dutch colonies, including Indonesia, and the leader of the mutiny on the slave ship Meermin. After a failed uprising at Grahamstown in 1819, the fifth of the Xhosa Wars, the British colonial government sentenced African leader Makanda Nxele to life imprisonment on the island . He drowned on the shores of Table Bay after escaping the prison.
People lived on Robben Island many thousands of years ago, when the sea channel between the Island and the Cape mainland was not covered with water. Since the Dutch settled at the Cape in the mid-1600s, Robben Island has been used primarily as a prison.
Indigenous African leaders, Muslim leaders from the East Indies, Dutch and British soldiers and civilians, women, and anti-apartheid activists, including South Africa's first democratic President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and the founding leader of the Pan Africanist Congress, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, were all imprisoned on the Island.
Robben Island has not only been used as a prison. It was a training and defence station in World War II (1939-1945) and a hospital for people with leprosy, and the mentally and chronically ill (1846-1931). In the 1840s, Robben Island was chosen for a hospital because it was regarded as both secure (isolating dangerous cases) and healthy (providing a good environment for cure). During this time, political and common-law prisoners were still kept on the Island. As there was no cure and little effective treatment available for leprosy, mental illness and other chronic illnesses in the 1800s, Robben Island was a kind of prison for the hospital patients too.
Since 1997 it has been a museum and a heritage site. The museum is a dynamic institution, which acts as a focal point of South African heritage. It runs educational programmes for schools, youths and adults, facilitates tourism development, conducts ongoing research related to the Island and fulfils an archiving function. The island was also used as a leper colony and animal quarantine station. Starting in 1845 lepers from the Hemel-en-Aarde (heaven and earth) leper colony near Caledon were moved to Robben Island when Hemel-en-Aarde was found unsuitable as a leper colony.
During the Second World War the island was fortified and guns were installed as part of the defences for Cape Town. It was also used as a prison.
List of former prisoners held at Robben Island
- Autshumato / Herrie
- Peter Becker, prisoner
- Dennis Brutus, former activist and poet
- Patrick Chamusso, former activist of the African National Congress
- Laloo Chiba, former accused at Little Rivonia Trial
- Eddie Daniels , author and activist
- Jerry Ekandjo, Namibian politician
- Nceba Faku, former Metro Mayor of Port Elizabeth
- Petrus Iilonga, Namibian trade unionist, activist and politician
- Ahmed Kathrada, former Rivonia Trialist and long-serving prisoner
- Langalibalele, one of the first Activists against colonialism
- Mosiuoa Lekota, imprisoned in 1974, President and Leader of the Congress of the People
- Mac Maharaj, former accused at Little Rivonia Trial
- Makana, one of the activists against colonialism
- Nelson Mandela, African National Congress leader and former President of South Africa (first black president)
- Gamzo Mandierd, activist
- Jeff Masemola, the first prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment in the apartheid era
- Amos Masondo, current Mayor of Johannesburg
- Michael Matsobane, leader of Young African Religious Movement. Sentenced at Bethal in 1979; released by PW Botha in 1987.
- Chief Maqoma, former chief who died on the island in 1873
- Govan Mbeki, father of former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki. Govan was sentenced to life in 1963 but was released from Robben Island in 1987 by PW Botha
- Krotoa 'Eva' van Meerhof
- Wilton Mkwayi, former accused at Little Rivonia Trial
- Murphy Morobe, Soweto Uprising student leader
- Sayed Adurohman Moturu, the Muslim Iman who was exiled on the island and died there in 1754
- Griffiths Mxenge, a South African Lawyer and member of the African National Congress
- Billy Nair, former Rivonia Trialist and ANC/SACP leader
- M. D. Naidoo, a South African lawyer and member of the African National Congress
- John ya Otto Nankudhu, Namibian liberation fighter
- John Nkosi Serving life but released by PW Botha in 1987
- Nongqawuse, the Xhosa prophet responsible for the Cattle Killing
- Maqana Nxele, former Xhosa prophet who drowned while trying to escape
- John Nyathi Pokela, co-founder and former chairman of the PAC
- Joe Seremane, current chairperson of the Democratic Alliance.
- Tokyo Sexwale, businessman
- Gaus Shikomba, Namibian politician
- Walter Sisulu, ANC Activist
- Hans Snyman SV/PROG 1667
- Robert Sobukwe, former leader of the PAC
- Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, Namibian politician
- Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa and leader of the African National Congress
World War Two
Pre 1498: Pre-colonial
Unknown. Archaeological research being conducted.
1498-1652: European ships passing the Island via the Cape to the East
Prison, refuge, pantry and post office
- 1498: First recorded landing on RI by Vasco da Gama's fleet.
- c.1525: Portuguese convicts
- 1615: English convicts
- 1632-40: Autshumato living on RI
1652-1795: Dutch East India Company period
Prison, Pantry & Quarantine station
- c.1658- 1795: Criminal and political prisoners
- 1682 - 1795: East Asian exiles
- 1771-1790: Quarantine station
1795-1802: First British occupation
- Military & criminal prisoners
1803-1806: Batavian period
1806-1910: British colonial period
Prison & Hospital
- 1808-1846: Military, criminal and political prisoners
- 1846-1931: Hospital for lepers (until 1931), lunatics (until 1921) and chronic sick (until 1891) See Article on Lepers on RI
- 1855-1869: Xhosa political prisoners
- 1874-1890: Prisoners from present-day Kwazulu Natal and Northern Cape regions
- 1866-1921: Convict station
1910-1961: Union of South Africa
Convict station, Hospital & Coastal Defence and Training Station
- 1866-1921: Convict station
- 1846-1931: Hospital for lepers (until 1931), and lunatics (until 1921).
- 1939-1959: Occupied by the Army and Navy for training and coastal defence
1961-1994: Apartheid Republic of South Africa
- 1961-1991: Maximum security prison for political prisoners
- 1961-1996: Medium security prison for criminal prisoners
1994: Democratic South Africa
Museum & Heritage Site
- 1997: Museum, National Monument
- 1999: World Heritage Site
- Nelson Mandela's Digital Archive
- Robben Island Marriage Registers from 1824 to 1898