Yesterday, was not only Freedom Day but it also marked 30 years since the last political prisoners were released from Robben Island on April 27, 1991.
Robben Island was used by the government as a prison for political prisoners and convicted criminals from 1961. The maximum security prison for political prisoners closed in 1991.
Robben Island Museum (RIM) Council Chairperson, Khensani Maluleke said: “Robben Island Museum stands tall as a bastion of the incredible triumph of the human spirit over unspeakable adversity.
“Despite allegations of an island that has forsaken our heritage, we affirm that nothing can be further from the truth and invite visitors to come and experience the history, the heritage, the spine-chilling encounters as retold by former political prisoners and a culturally enriching experience that can only be gained from treading the soil that our struggle icons once did,” said Maluleke.
Robben Island Museum said as the country celebrates Freedom Day, they are reminded that with freedom, comes responsibility.
“Freedom of speech has resulted in a narrative that seems determined to tarnish the management and council of Robben Island Museum.
“We are grateful for the support of our domestic visitors, most of whom have only positive feedback upon returning to the mainland, yet those voices are seldom heard,” Maluleke said.
The Susan Kruger ferry was taken out of commission as she was over 60 years old and was no longer economically viable to operate.
The museum said that as part of the integration strategy, the plan was always to return Susan Kruger to Robben Island, for inclusion in the exhibits that make up the visitor experience.
During the lockdown in 2020, the site where she would be housed on the island was prepared.
The next phase was to take the ferry out of the water at the end of the 2020/21 financial year, to be taken to dry dock and have restoration work done.
However, the economic impact of Covid-19 meant that financial resources had to be reprioritised and the maintenance plan for Susan Kruger was temporarily put on hold until resources were available.
“Today we remember the many historic journeys on Susan Kruger and recommit ourselves to keeping this critical piece of heritage alive for generations to come.
“Nobody could have foreseen the extent to which Covid-19 would destroy lives and livelihoods way beyond the first 21-day hard lockdown.
“We work with the limited resources we have, but can assure South Africans that the memories, the heritage, the joy the tears, the friendships and the hardships will remain alive on Robben Island,” Maluleke said.
RIM tours run on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11am. Additional tours are made available as the demand necessitates.
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