Drakenstein Prison caught our attention as we drove past it on our way to a Franschhoek bed and breakfast. We learned from our host that this was the prison from which Nelson Mandela was ultimately released. He came here from Robben Island where he had spent most of his incarceration years in a rough cel. Not long before going on this adventure we watched a film showing his transfer to a guarded home instead of that cold, hard cell. At the entrance to Drakenstein is a bronze statue of Mr. Mandela, fist raised high, dressed in a suit, marching to freedom away from behind bars forever.
Our host told us that there was a restaurant serving food to the public not far from Nelson Mandela’s cottage. It is the official mess for the guards and a method to train trustee prisoners a trade that they could use upon release. There were three levels of prison very active on the expansive grounds ranging from maximum security to trustee barracks. We were welcomed for a nice lunch the next day after our arrival in this wine famous valley. Our waiter was serving time as well as food. The guards eating there were off duty enjoying a routine lunch time. We were fortunate to have good conversations with all.
Cape Town it one of the most surreal, beautiful cities on the globe. It is rich in European History dating to 1452 with a Dutch resupply post for ships transiting to the Spice Islands and beyond. African History still needs to be written. Robben Island became notorious for its harsh environment where prisoners were isolated from the rest of the world. This is ironic as this point on the earth is a major waypoint for all shipping in the history of sailing. The world passes by and the prisoners are kept hidden away. Nelson Mandela spent most of his prime of life in this cel.
I did shed a tear as NPR reported his passing this morning…he is one of the icons of true heroism. These people come only every now and then.