Robben Island Museum hits back at ex-prisoners after claims of bad management

2018-11-30 22:15
The proposed Robben Island Marine Protected Area (MPA) is one of 22 proposed sites currently under consideration. PHOTO: Peter Chadwick

The proposed Robben Island Marine Protected Area (MPA) is one of 22 proposed sites currently under consideration. PHOTO: Peter Chadwick

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The Robben Island Museum claims the Ex-Political Prisoners' Association (EPPA), which has accused the museum of not managing the site properly, has not sent any official communication to the museum's management team. 

On Thursday EPPA held a media briefing where it slammed the museum, demanding better management for the site which once housed South Africa's most prominent struggle veterans.

EPPA said its members would embark on a hunger strike until their demands were met, according to EWN.

"First and foremost, RIM (Robben Island Museum) would like to state that EPPA never submitted the list of grievances to RIM two weeks ago as alleged in their press briefing of the 29th of November 2018," museum council chairperson Sibusiso Buthelezi said in a statement on Friday.

Management at Robben Island Museum confirmed there had been a meeting with the group's national secretary, Mpho Masemola. However, the museum says that meeting was to discuss charter services to transport visitors to the island.

"The purpose of the meeting was to ask the CEO of RIM to issue a letter of guarantee for their new boat, 'Madiba 2', which they are in the process of procuring from outside the country.

Former political prisoners 'sidelined'

"Subsequent to the meeting, Mr Mpho Masemola indicated his unhappiness with RIM's inability to offer such a letter of guarantee which would have resulted in breaching procurement processes. Mr Masemola then threatened to take action including but not limited to going public on the matter of RIM refusing to issue the guarantee letter," Buthelezi alleges.

Masemola has previously accused the Robben Island Museum of sidelining political prisoners, while former political prisoners – "our living heritage" – working on the island as tour guides earn "very little" and are on the same pay scale as tour guides who have no experience of life behind bars, reported News24.

"People who have contributed to our democracy are not reaping any benefits for surviving and sharing their stories. The liberators of this country are without medical aid, bursaries for their dependents or even funeral schemes for dignified burials. Some of us are dying poor."

Buthelezi said it was important to note that the Robben Island Museum council had drawn a distinction between the ex-political prisoners on its payroll as employees, and ex-political prisoners in their capacity as members of the EPPA.

"All RIM employees are treated the same in terms of established labour relations regulatory framework. The employees of RIM cannot be service providers to RIM...this will be in contravention of all established legislative prescripts governing the Republic of South Africa."

The museum acknowledged EPPA as an important stakeholder and encouraged its members to air out their grievances through the ex-political prisoners' advisory committee.

"The committee provides a governance structure to address matters affecting EPPs (ex-political prisoners) who were incarcerated on Robben Island.

"Therefore, EPPs have an opportunity to address issues of concern through this platform," Buthelezi concluded.

Read more on:    robben island  |  cape town
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