South Africans on Monday are observing the 29th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from Victor Verster Prison in Cape Town that ended 27 years of his imprisonment under the defunct apartheid regime which ended in 1994.
Some 18 years of this prison term, however, were spent on the notorious Robben Island prison, just off Cape Town, where he spent his days with fellow political prisoners breaking quarry rocks as punishment.
Leaving prison on 11 February 1990 and accompanied by his then wife Winnie, Mandela was enthusiastically received by the thousands of people -- black and white --who gathered to see him outside Cape Town’s City Hall where he gave his first public speech after his freedom.
Mandela spent 18 years on Robben Island and a short period at Pollsmoor Prison before spending the last 14 months of his imprisonment at the Victor Verster Prison, now known as the Drakenstein Correctional Centre.
In June 1964, Mandela and other political activists were sentenced to life in prison. Upon his release, Mandela was elected president of the African National Congress. This paved the way for South Africa’s years of peace-making, negotiating, reckoning and transforming.
South Africa’s transition from apartheid ended formally on 27 April 1994 with the first democratic general election which ushered into power Mandela as the country’s first democratically leader.
Mandela died on 5 December 2013 at age of 95 following a lung ailment, which some believe was acquired from the effects of the years spent breaking quarry rock on Robben Island.
While South Africans should still celebrate the country’s break from colonial and apartheid shackles, his Nelson Mandela Foundation on Monday urged South Africans to go out in large numbers to vote in the 2019 general election on 8 May.