Street View Tour Guided by Former Political Prisoner Vusumsi Mcongo
Meet Vusumsi Mcongo, a Freedom Fighter in the anti-Apartheid movement was imprisoned on Robben Island from 1978-1990.
All tours of the island are conducted by ex-prisoners.
Mr. Mcongo will guiding us on this virtual tour of the Maximum Security prison.
All prisoner letters - received and sent - were strictly controlled by the Censor's Office. The prison censors would cut or black out any content that was deemed undesirable. In the 1960s, prisoners could only read and receive letters written in the official languages recognized by the state - either Afrikaans or English. Communications in Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho and other languages were forbidden at first.
View from the middle of the Section B courtyard. Note the covered walkway at the end of view. From here the warders would maintain constant surveillance on the prisoners below.
Mandela also gardened a small plot here, and secretly began writing his famous autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.
The political prisoner Jeff Masemola (aka "Bra Jeff or "Brother Jeff") - a leader of the Pan Africanist Congress - also gardened tomatoes here. He was "in and out of B Section" recalls Mr. Mcongo because he confronted the warders about prisoner rights and conditions.
This space was also the location for competitive sports at different times in the prison history.
Under global media scrutiny, the Apartheid government invited journalists to tour the island, asserting that prison conditions were not harsh. Black political prisoners who typically worked in the quarry in shorts, were given long trousers (usually reserved for Indian and other Asian prisoners under Apartheid prison regulations). To spread positive propaganda the prisoners were relocated to work in the garden on the day of the journalists' visit.
Photograph of Nelson Mandela taken by the international media during their visit. This and other photographs and film footage appeared across the world. In letters to the head of the prison system, Mr. Mandela protested this unannounced visit and subsequent publication of images without prisoners' consent as an invasion of privacy.
Football was a popular and highly competitive sport among prisoners, who formed their own league with a binding constitution. The document is preserved in the Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archive at University of the Western Cape.
The prison league strictly adhered to FIFA regulations and principles and won FIFA recognition for their struggle and adherence to governing principles.
Robben Island Museum
Nelson Mandela Foundation of Memory