why history matters

Last day in Cape Town after a busy but wonderful 5 days. Today was a more reflective but educational day for Sam as we headed out to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was a prisoner for 18 years and an estimated 12,000 political prisoners were held over the decades of the Apartheid era.

I was pleasantly surprised how well Sam understood what happened here. He has always been interested in prisons and punishment since the concepts of crime and punishment were first seeded in his brain when he read Wind in the Willows, and Toad was sent to prison for reckless driving. More recently his very dominant obsession around Harry Potter has him often referring to Azkaban prison and Sirius Black escaping from there. So the principles of being in custody were understood, but the exposure today was of course real.

Hence our discussion prior to and on the ferry was able to get across to him that governments can sometimes behave unethically, that it can be ok to protest against the system, and that people can go to jail for the wrong reasons. He was able to understand what happened with Apartheid and the importance of Mandela and the Truth and Reconciliation process subsequent to his release.

The island is now a world heritage site and it is not hard to see why. The guides are all ex-prisoners of the island and this brings a personal touch to what they are saying which is incredibly moving. Ours was snatched out of a meeting with 43 like minded friends at the age of 20, and jailed for 5 years. His personal anecdotes of the systems inside the jail and the effect on these usually intellectual and passionate young men were shocking and heart breaking.

Tomorrow we start our down the Garden Route between CT and Durban over the next 3 weeks for a much more rural experience. Internet coverage ranges from non existent to patchy so blog entries may be the same!