Monday, 25th May 2009 by Ian Brown
The island has a dubious history as a place of imprisonment and exile long before the rise of apartheid. Its first prison use is thought to be as early as the 17th century when opponents of Dutch colonies around the world were sent there, while British forces sentenced African leader Makanda Nxele to life imprisonment there early in the 19th century. For almost a century, starting in 1836, lepers were sent to male and female colonies on separate parts of the island.
South Africa’s apartheid regime opened the maximum security prison in 1959, and over the subsequent 32 years over 3000 men – mostly political prisoners – suffered through brutal policies and barbaric conditions. Recently-elected South African president Jacob Zuma was one of many notable inmates.
The lime quarry was one of several work sites for prisoners sentenced to hard labour.
The island and prison now serve as a museum and a reminder of the resistance against a terrible regime.
Thanks to yikesahootie.