News24

Obama to visit Mandela's cell

2013-06-29 21:12

Cape Town - US President Barack Obama on Sunday will visit Nelson Mandela's Robben Island prison cell, paying homage to the ailing South African hero.

The journey to Robben Island, while not Obama's first, will carry extra poignancy with Mandela still critically ill in hospital.

The 94-year-old spent two thirds of his 27 years as a political prisoner on the rocky outcrop off Cape Town.

Subjected to degrading treatment in "the harshest, most iron-fisted outpost in the South African penal system", Mandela was allowed one visitor for 30 minutes, and one letter, every six months.

He did not so much as touch the hand of his then wife Winnie, having instead to settle for rubbing his nose against a photograph.

But he had vowed not to be robbed of his dignity.

"There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair," Mandela wrote in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.

"That way lay defeat and death."

Now a magnet for tourists and a UN World Heritage site, the prison has been starkly preserved as a monument to the hardships endured by those who fought for multi-race democracy.

Tourists arrive by the same method used by prisoners, on ferries that ply across the often moody Atlantic Ocean, a journey that Mandela first made in chains.

Security fences are still topped with angry razor wire.

The bleak quarry where inmates once laboured remains, and the view of scenic Cape Town across the bay painfully close.

But it is the bare-boned former cell of former prisoner 466/64 - who went on to lead South Africa into multi-race democracy nearly 20 years ago - that strikes most visitors.

His bed on the floor, a small wooden bench, and a metal toilet bucket have been recreated in the damp space that Mandela could pace across in three steps.

"I was 46 years old, a political prisoner with a life sentence, and that small cramped space was to be my home for I knew not how long," he wrote.

A small window

A window shuttered by thick bars in his cell offered a view into a courtyard where prisoners once broke rocks and where a draft of his autobiography was buried for safekeeping.

Obama visited the cell while a senator in 2006, solemnly gazing out of the same bars that his hero once did.

"Think about 27 years in prison. Think about hardships and the struggles and being away from family and friends," Obama said at the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg.

Mandela was sent to the island chained to other prisoners in the hold of an old wooden ferry with a porthole above through which the warders urinated.

Mandela went on to two more prisons before walking free, fist clenched, in 1990 and embracing his former enemies in a globally admired lesson of reconciliation.

He later described the island as a "celebration of the struggle and a symbol of the finest qualities of the human spirit, rather than as a monument to the brutal tyranny and oppression of apartheid".

Comments
  • she.is.here.777 - 2013-06-29 21:25

    What for does he want to feel the love?

      Tersia Louw - 2013-06-29 21:50

      Maybe he wants to inform himself; some presidents are like that.

      Sean Bagley - 2013-06-29 22:37

      Michelle Obama is a standout for me so far on this trip and real credit to America & the American people.Such an elegant and beautifully poised individual she is and supporting her husband where ever and when ever they have to make trips in America and beyond. Compare that American image with Zuma and his multitude of wives and concubines with their money hungry parasite behavior that's costing the taxpayer so much money just to keep them afloat.A real disgrace our Presidency is from that point of view,compared to the American President and his wife.

      klas_goran - 2013-06-30 05:25

      @ Makaveli Shakur, I am also white and I fully agree with you. so many times feel ashamed of the whites comments here. I wonder if Vuurwarm Tannie ever been to Roben Island to learn from his former white regime did. Also there is a good movie to watch...Searching for Sugarman...that movie also shows that there was a groupå whites not supporting the appartheidregime during that time.

      Beckie Knight - 2013-06-30 07:49

      He says: "Ask more questions about lopsided deals?" HE'S lopsided! BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA: Friend or Fraud? Judge for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5CsrTMZAhA

  • Victor van der Merwe - 2013-06-29 21:25

    The funny thing is that it has become impossible to find anyone who admits to have supported and voted for the apartheid government. I respect the bigots in Ventersdorp for being honest about their political position.

      Phuphudlelwe Vukayilahle - 2013-06-29 21:54

      @Victor the admittance you are looking for is written all over this site,just try to read the comments everyday.

      Rita Barnard - 2013-06-29 22:04

      You must be kidding.. probably only in your narrow little twisted LIEberal world. What decent rightwinger will associate with you anyway.

      George Pito - 2013-06-29 22:32

      No Victor a lot of us believe we are different and still do. It is not with hate it is simply a fact. I can assure you most people at the age of even 60 were part of of a natural development process. Still today we have people lets call them black in positions which I cannot see them being fit for it. This will dissapear naturally when they stop doing stupid things. Look at the presdident nobody can be proud of him with so many wifes so much corruption. That is what caused apartheid. I can assure you I met so many black people so good but there is two sides to this whole story. Then Afrikaans people and I am one also one came from a history where they werent even allowed at the front door. If you dont understand that things change people change because that is called development and upliftment. All over Africa races even of the same colour cannot get along and this is not called apartheid.

      Renier Lubbe - 2013-06-29 22:46

      @Thabo: You are so wrong! The go ahead for the reform of SA was given by means of a referendum supported my a majority of the whites. The problem in SA now is the few whites and blacks who will for ever cling to the past and the select few who benefits from the new dispensation.

      Sandla Insimbi - 2013-06-29 22:50

      Thabo you are wrong. The 99% of the whites on this forum that you describe make up only ± 0,04 of the white vote in this country. Please do not make accusations that are stupid.

      Beckie Knight - 2013-06-30 07:49

      He says: "Ask more questions about lopsided deals?" HE'S lopsided! BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA: Friend or Fraud? Judge for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5CsrTMZAhA

  • Lolo Mogale - 2013-06-29 21:26

    I wish obama was jz dis men sucks the whole south africans including his wife go see mandela roben island cell dat is gud of u obama we love you black african american president

      John Smith - 2013-06-29 21:59

      Obama' s mother is a WHITE woman! Wake up!

      Elsie Palmer - 2013-06-29 22:15

      Most of you are sick narrow minded. If you write on a blackboard you need white chalk and if you write on white paper you needs a black pen. People wake up and living in the past won't move us forward.

      Beckie Knight - 2013-06-30 07:50

      He says: "Ask more questions about lopsided deals?" HE'S lopsided! BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA: Friend or Fraud? Judge for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5CsrTMZAhA

  • John Smith - 2013-06-29 21:27

    Lip service to score political points from the first COLOURED USA president, his mother is WHITE, his father is Kenyan, so their corporations can keep looting OUR resources

      John Smith - 2013-06-29 22:06

      Hey Phup, like your name you talk phup, every one in SA owns the resources of the sovereign land of his or her birth. Who do YOU think owns the resources Phup. You actually own one forty six millionth of SA. So do I!

      John Smith - 2013-06-29 22:09

      You pair of idiots could not define the word intelligence, never mind utilise it! you racist pair of idiots!

      Beckie Knight - 2013-06-30 07:50

      He says: "Ask more questions about lopsided deals?" HE'S lopsided! BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA: Friend or Fraud? Judge for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5CsrTMZAhA

  • Micky D Mack - 2013-06-29 21:29

    Obama to visit the cell for the 2nd time, I wonder if its fact!

      Beckie Knight - 2013-06-30 07:50

      He says: "Ask more questions about lopsided deals?" HE'S lopsided! BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA: Friend or Fraud? Judge for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5CsrTMZAhA

      Fezile Ntontela - 2013-06-30 08:06

      well said Nomcebo

  • Phuphudlelwe Vukayilahle - 2013-06-29 21:33

    i was on that prison cell 4 years.

      Omn Basso - 2013-06-29 21:59

      Phuphudlelwe, its sad but a fact that innocent people suffer in prisons too. And we can not even say NEVER AGAIN. But we say NEVER AGAIN to apartheid - and lets build beautiful future.

  • Nkosi Mzimba - 2013-06-29 21:36

    whats next? Obama has close encounter with tokoloshe? *rolling eyes* cumon news24 surely you can do better reporting

      Beckie Knight - 2013-06-30 07:50

      He says: "Ask more questions about lopsided deals?" HE'S lopsided! BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA: Friend or Fraud? Judge for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5CsrTMZAhA

      Fezile Ntontela - 2013-06-30 07:57

      dream on Isaiah i dont know who the hell do you think you are

  • Kari Pentikainen - 2013-06-29 21:37

    Zuma you are a poor excuse of a leader. You should not even be allowed to speak on behalf of Madiba . It would be an insult to to his legacy . !

      Nomcebo Ngidi - 2013-06-29 23:15

      you hate him we majority voters we admire and respect him

      Isaiah Tshoenyana - 2013-06-30 07:47

      Not anymore...The majority now doesnt want him...If it was possible to vote tomorrow Zuma was gonna go down...A man with so many wives will be respected by ppl of his culture/tradition......For some of us a man with many women we dont have respect/dignity for him..

  • Mthokozisi Ngwenya - 2013-06-29 21:56

    OBAMA at ROBEN CELL

  • Rita Barnard - 2013-06-29 22:01

    Mandela was one man in a cell, after he was freed four million live in cells. All the white south-africans who have to live behind electric fences security walls and then they still don't survive.

  • Omn Basso - 2013-06-29 22:05

    *john smith*..This is really racist comment. This is KKK level comment.

  • Johan Wagner - 2013-06-29 22:07

    How can I get to meet Presidebt Obama during his Afrcan visit?

  • Christian Mutsambi - 2013-06-29 22:35

    Go visit ill Mandela not his prison cell

  • Sean Bagley - 2013-06-29 22:37

    Michelle Obama is a standout for me so far on this trip and real credit to America & the American people.Such an elegant and beautifully poised individual she is and supporting her husband where ever and when ever they have to make trips in America and beyond. Compare that American image with Zuma and his multitude of wives and concubines with their money hungry parasite behavior that's costing the taxpayer so much money just to keep them afloat.A real disgrace our Presidency is from that point of view,compared to the American President and his wife.

  • Mdluli Vusi - 2013-06-29 22:41

    Black father +white mother=black child.white father+black mother=black child.This is racism at it's best.Obama is "white".

  • Grace Hendricks - 2013-06-29 23:13

    I think the reason why he will visit the Island is for his wife's sake. She couldn't go because of bad weather in 2011 when she and her children was in Capetown, and even if it is not for his wife's sake he can go and visit it, there is no restriction to how many times a person may visit. The Island has a long history, the first political prisoner Autshumato, who was send there was in the time of Jan van Riebeeck, but manage to escape three times from the Island, the Island was also use for lepers and as an asylum, so there is nothing wrong to visit it more than once, lots of history and ghosts there.

      Nomcebo Ngidi - 2013-06-29 23:30

      maybe I was in exile in 2011 can't remember Obama in R.Island

  • Valerie Vale - 2013-06-29 23:45

    Blacks and whites fighting as usual, no hope for South Africa, country is doomed! Madiba you are amazing, treating all South Africans as equals.

  • Mahlatse Patience - 2013-06-29 23:58

    Why is he been refrained from seeing Mr Mandela in hospital?that's my main concern here,i really want to know that.

      Philip Condor - 2013-06-30 07:59

      He is not interested in mandela, cause he is not living in the past. now you know1

  • Beckie Knight - 2013-06-30 07:49

    He says: "Ask more questions about lopsided deals?" HE'S lopsided! BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA: Friend or Fraud? Judge for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5CsrTMZAhA

  • Rob Martin - 2013-06-30 07:57

    All this window dressing.. what about the real indigenous people of the USA WHO ARE OVERLOOKED and are still on reserves... our Koi-San who are conveniently forgotten by the invaders of yesteryear black and white.

  • Rob Martin - 2013-06-30 08:00

    Does he apologise for slavery?

  • Chris-Jan Bezuidenhout - 2013-06-30 08:21

    Stop with the struggle. Show the man what we have achieved so that they can have the confidence to deal with SA in the future.

  • CoffeeBean Marty - 2013-06-30 09:07

    Is Obama on tour or on business?

  • CoffeeBean Marty - 2013-06-30 09:07

    Is Obama on tour or on business?

  • Martin Williams - 2013-06-30 09:16

    When Barry Soetoro (Obama)goes in the cell. Lock it and throw away key!

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