Nelson Mandela "Amadelakufa!" (Death Defiance!)


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Robben Island


Robben Island was an area where the mentally insane, lepers, thieves, and political prisoners were kept. It was there that Nelson Mandela spent long years of improsoment, made to work from 1974 until 1990 breaking rocks. In his autobiography, "A Long Walk to Freedom" Nelson Mandela describes his many years in a prison cell separate from the world and his family. However, even in Robben Island, Mandela made a difference. He worked through the protests and strikes which he led and aided. He also had influence over the people in Robben Island as a political leader, which is supposedly one of the reasons why he was released.

As a prisoner in Robben Island, Mandela was entitled to little, if any, rights. The the prisoners were made to do grueling work and did not enjoy any freedoms. Howeve, even through all of these difficulties, Mandela still fought for justice. During the first days of his internment at Robben Island he protested the amount of work that the wardens gave him and his fellow prisoners, and won. When Mandela heard that some prisoners were protesting against the wardens, he immediately went to help their cause not even knowing what they were protesting for; he just wanted to help his brothers in need. Later on, he managed to send out letters to different ANC members through his lawyer and found ways to communicate with his fellow prisoners, by means of codes on match boxes and plastic notes stuck on the inside of toilet bowls.

While he was in Robben Island, Nelson Mandela exercised a great deal of power trying to make friends and avoid enemies. In his autobiography he describes it as, "The most important person in any prisoner's life is their warden. If you are cold and want an extra blanket, you might petition the minister of justice, but you will get no response. If you go to the commissioner of prisons, he will say, "Sorry, it is against regulations." The head of prison will say, "If I give you an extra blanket, I must give one to everyone." But if you approach the warder in your corridor, and you are on good terms with him, he will simply go to the stockroom and fetch a blanket." Nelson Mandela exercised his power by being friendly to the wardens. He managed to convince several of them that the ANC was not a group that is trying to get all of the white people out of Africa (as the government propaganda had instructed them). At the end, one guard who had been particularly viscous to Mandela and his friends said, after being told about the ANC and their mission, "It makes more bloody sense than the Nats."