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Mandela's Cape Town Memories
"The mainland to which we knew we would one day return"
Last updated 10 July, 2018
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years of his prison sentence confined to Robben Island as a political prisoner. Many of Cape Town's landmarks are politically significant to his struggle to ensure freedom. We share Mandela's Cape Town Memories.
In the 27 years he spent imprisoned on Robben Island, Mandela's friendship with prison guard Christo Brand developed into a lifelong relationship of mutual respect. "Robben Island had an open yard at the top of the prison where there was a vegetable patch," says Christo. "Mandela loved gardening and was proud of his garden. He grew brinjals, tomatoes, onions and spinach, which, every Friday, the wardens would combine with meat to make a stew. Mandela always shared his stew with the wardens."
Table Mountain serves as a backdrop for many Cape Town landmarks, including Robben Island. Nelson Mandela recalls fond memories of the view from the island: "During the many years of incarceration on Robben Island, we often looked across Table Mountain at its magnificent silhouette. To us on Robben Island, Table Mountain was a beacon of hope. It represented the mainland to which we knew we would one day return."
Desmond Tutu's official residence
Nelson Mandela and his then-wife, Winnie, visited Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s official residence in Bishopscourt, Cape Town, on the day after his release from prison. Members of the Mandela family and struggle icons including Walter and Albertina Sisulu were present. On the 20th anniversary of Mandela's release, Tutu commented: "The day Nelson Mandela walked free from Victor Verster Prison, our collective spirit soared. It was a day that promised the beginning of the end of indignity."
The Grand Parade and City Hall
It was from the City Hall's balcony overlooking Cape Town's main public square that Nelson Mandela first addressed South Africans on the day of his release from prison, in 1990. On 9 May 1994, he once again delivered a rousing speech from the same venue after his election as president of South Africa.
At the Freedom Day Celebrations, on 27th April 1998, Mandela commented: "When we gathered here on the Grand Parade in 1990, we knew that our march to freedom was irreversible, that nothing could stop our dream of a free South Africa from coming true. Four years later, on 27 April 1994, the people of South Africa declared before the world that they would govern themselves."
Nelson Mandela's role in the 1995 Rugby World Cup not only inspired the Springboks to victory, but also motivated a nation to unite. Author of Playing the Enemy John Carlin wrote: "Former Springbok captain Morné du Plessis arranged for the players to learn the song of black resistance, now the new national anthem, Nkosi Sikelele Afrika (God Bless Africa). At a choir session in Cape Town, the Springbok players belted out the song with feeling, the vast second-row Kobus Wiese leading the choral charge."
Victor Verster (Drakenstein Correctional Centre)
Victor Verster Prison, now named Drakenstein Correctional Centre, is located between Paarl and Franschhoek. During the apartheid era, it served as a low-security prison acting as a stepping stone for the release of lower-risk political prisoners. It was here where Nelson Mandela spent the last three years of imprisonment in a warden house with a pool.
Mandela has inspired Cape Town
Mandela has inspired the country's struggles against apartheid, HIV/AIDS, crime and poverty. Today, we live in a culturally-vibrant Cape Town, where anyone can go anywhere, regardless of age, race, creed or sexuality.
For more articles about Mandela (Tata Madiba as he was affectionately known), check out Madiba's Greatest Film Moments or Touring Nelson Mandela's landmarks in Cape Town. Also work up a sweat at the annual Mandela walk and jog.
Spread the love, here is a list of community and social initiatives you can get involved with this Mandela Day and every day.
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