Robben Island

Robben Island

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Robben Island is located in Table Bay, 6.9 km west of the coast of Cape town, South Africa. The island is about 3.3km long and 1.9km wide. It is only a few meters above sea level.

Robben Island is popularly known for being where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 out of his 27 years in prison. The current president of South Africa; Jacob Zuma also served time in Robben Island. It is one of the world’s oldest prisons.

Since the 17th Century, Robben Island was used to isolate many political prisoners. The Dutch settlers were the first to use Robben island as a prison. The leader of the mutiny on the slave ship Meermin is one of the early permanent inhabitants of the prison.

Makanda Nxele, an African leader of a failed uprising at Grahamstown in 1918, one of the Xhosa wars; was sentenced to life imprisonment on the Island. He drowned on the shores of Table Bay after escaping the prison. The island was used as a leper colony in the 19th century.

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The island has become a popular destination for thousands of tourists from all over the world yearly. The maximum security for political prisoners closed in 1991. In 1999 the island was declared a world heritage center. Many of the tour guides are former prisoners.


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