Robben Island in ’Plain

Rivonia trialist Andrew Mlangeni shows how he slept in prison.

Mitchell’s Plain pupils who had not yet visited Robben Island were able to view a replica of Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, as part of Heritage Month commemorations at Spine Road High School in Rocklands, on Monday September 26.

More than 1 000 pupils from 15 Mitchell’s Plain schools attended the launch with Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba and Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Fatima Chohan.

At the unveiling, three remaining Rivonia trialists, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni, Dennis Goldberg, Eddie Daniels who was also political prisoner in section B with Madiba, and other anti-apartheid struggle stalwarts Farieda Omar, Amy Thornton, Reghmatunisa Jaffer and Bulelwa Tinto spoke to pupils about their experiences on the island.

This is an initiative of Robben Island Museum and Home Affairs. The cell will be touring to all 16 Mitchell’s Plain high schools this year.

Mr Gigaba said the replica of Madiba’s cell would enable pupils, who have never been to Robben Island, to get a personal perspective on the history that unfolded there.

He said Mr Mandela accomplished many things in his long and extraordinary life.

“Among his greatest accomplishments, perhaps, is that all of the learners, can take for granted that this country has one citizenship shared by and available to all South Africans, and that all our learners here are free to become whoever they choose to be, irrespective of their race, class or gender.

Mr Gigaba said every South African was able to have their identity and status as a citizen of this country, recognised at birth in the form of a full birth certificate.

“At the age of 16, all South Africans are entitled to a free identity document – now in the form of a smart ID card – which entitles and enables all citizens to work, to participate in the economy, and to access a wide range of government services,” he said.

Andre Gaum of the Department of Home Affairs said pupils had been informed about the smart ID cards and had been able to make applications for them.

He said the department of Home Affairs had been conducting ID campaigns at schools and with the roll-out of smart IDs.

They were inviting pupils to visit their offices to process their first time IDs for free.

“On each occasion, stalwarts of the struggle accompanied the deputy minister to the schools as role models for the young learners.

“It also allows for learners to appreciate an ID and how to view citizenship,” he said.

Spine Road High principal Riyaadh Najaar said the replica was an excellent initiative, as it taught young people about the history of the country.

“This is a special occasion for our school as pupils are able to listen to activists and also view the replica of Mr Mandela’s cell and someone who means a lot to our nation. Through this programme, they are being taught to be responsible citizens and to make use of the opportunities being offered in this lifetime, as opposed to the apartheid era,” he said.

Mr Najaar said Mr Mandela had visited Spine Road High on the June 12 1995.

“Mr Mandela was aware of the attack on the school by the police in 1985 when students from all over met at the school to lobby for his release.

“He came to thank the school for their role in the liberation struggle.

“So today is a happy day for our school and I would like to thank our government departments,” he said.

Princeton High School’s head girl, Megan Wolmarans, said that she now had an idea of how the cell looked at Robben Island and appreciated the efforts of the activists.

“We can now see what conditions Mr Mandela lived in, and it is very sad.

“As a young person, it is important to know the history of our country. I am also now encouraged to be a more active resident and to make the right decisions in life,” she said.

Aloe High’s head girl, Mihlali Lekiso, added: “For us this is a big deal, and the work of Mr Mandela is a big deal.

“As young people we must acknowledge the sacrifices made by people. I salute them, those who have died and who are alive,” she said.