“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
It was the Alcatraz of South Africa, a grim island outpost off the coast of Cape Town. Robben Island’s most poignant period was the late 20th century, when the facility was used as a maximum-security prison for political prisoners of South Africa’s apartheid regime. Beginning in 1962 black, Indian, and mixed-race inmates were held here, including, most famously, future South African President Nelson Mandela. He recalled that, during his long imprisonment, what he missed more than anything was the sight and sound of children. As a father, he was deprived of watching his own children grow up.
Mandela later became South Africa’s first black president after the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, serving one term until 1999. The years that followed were marked by a seemingly endless succession of visits to him by world leaders and other prominent figures in which his unique status on the global stage was honoured.
His extraordinary compassion and shrewd understanding of his enemies, sustained throughout and beyond his 27 years in detention, and his determined pursuit of racial reconciliation were exemplary. Nelson Mandela rescued his country from the brink of disaster, doing so in a way that transcended South Africa’s crisis, serving as an inspiration around the globe and giving generations of Africans a hero they shared with an admiring world.