Cape Town – Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says young people must use the country’s rich heritage to engage in a future that is different from the past South Africa.
The Minister said this when he unveiled a replica of former President Nelson Mandela’s Robben Island prison cell at the Spine Road High School, in Mitchells Plain, in the Western Cape, on Monday.
He unveiled the exhibit as part of Heritage Month in a bid to contribute substantially to the historical angle to enable young people who have never been to the Robben Island Museum to get a personal perspective of the history that unfolded there.
“It is our responsibility to preserve the country’s heritage, the country’s history to teach young people how South Africa got to be where it is today, but not so much that they remain fixed in the past, the main purpose is to help them engage in a future that is different from this past that is better than where we are coming from.
“We as the Department of Home Affairs, though not being the Department of Arts and Culture, are equally responsible for the preservation of the country’s past, the records of our past,” he said.
The launch forms part of an ongoing campaign led by Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan under the theme, “Madiba, the Good Citizen”, which seeks to encourage learners to value the rights and responsibilities that go along with citizenship.
Born in Mvezo, a village near Mthatha on 18 July 1918, Mandela became known and respected all over the world as a symbol of the struggle against apartheid and all forms of racism; the icon and the hero of African liberation.
He was sentenced along with other anti-apartheid activists on 12 June 1964 after what became known as the Rivonia Trial. Mandela and others were charged with sabotage for their anti-apartheid activism.
He was released from Robben Island in March 1982, after 18 years, and was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town with fellow stalwarts Walter Sisulu and Raymond Mhlaba, among others. In December 1988, he was moved to the Victor Verster Prison near Paarl, from where he was eventually released.
Replica to go countrywide
On Monday, the Minister was accompanied by Deputy Minister Chohan as well as several stalwarts to the launch of the prison cell, including the three surviving Rivonia trialists Andrew Mlangeni, Denis Goldberg and Mandela’s long-time friend Ahmed Kathrada.
“The [replica] is going to go around the country, it is going to go to schools to the largest extent possible.
“We are going to try and ensure that as it goes around the schools, we accompany it with the department’s mobile solution for smart ID cards so that we are able to capture young people at school for the Smart ID Card because as you know in the present moment, we do not expect young people to come to our office to apply for the Smart ID Cards. We are in the final stages of developing a new mobile solution for the Smart ID Card. We want to make this an exciting project so that we are able to couple many things,” he said.
The Minister later led Mlangeni, Kathrada and Goldberg to unveil the prison cell replica before addressing learners.
Unveiling of prison cell brings back memories
Shortly after the mock prison cell was launched, Mlangeni said the unveiling of the replica is an indication, especially to the youth, “where we come from”.
“We don’t know where we come from but hopefully a replica such as this one will show our youth that our freedom was not given to us on a silver platter.
“We fought for it and some sacrificed with their lives to be where we are today.”
Kathrada said the tiny prison cell brought back a lot of memories.
“This brings back memories that Madiba stayed in this little place for 18 years before we were transferred to Pollsmoor Prison.
“But as I repeat, that is part of the struggle because what we looked forward to in the end was victory of the good over evil.
“And that is what we must not forget. The past can never be forgotten but we must know the future, what we went through to achieve the future, and that is more important.”
Deputy Minister Chohan later handed over Smart ID cards to several learners.