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NNelson Mandela described it as, "the truth of Oscar Wilde's haunting line about the tent of blue that prisoners call the sky”.Pollsmoor Prison undoubtedly played a significant role in shaping South Africa’s history.

This is  Pollsmoor Prison

Surrounded by some of the oldest wine estates and upmarket suburbs in the city, the historic prison stands assertively in the Cape Town suburb of Tokai.

Nelson Mandela, along with comrades Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni and Raymond Mhlaba stepped on the shores of Pollsmoor in March 1982 after spending 18 years on Robben Island. Ahmed Kathrada, also an anti-apartheid activist, followed shortly and was also incarcerated. 

All the anti-apartheid activists were kept separate from each other and from the rest of the population to try and curb the spread of anti-apartheid idealism.

FFollowing Madiba’s footsteps

While he was there, Nelson made friends with the warder and was able to create a rooftop garden as well as read anything he could get his hands on. He also communicated with 52 letters a year to the outside world, which played an important role against the apartheid government.

During his time in Pollsmoor Prison Mandela refused an offer by then President PW Botha to be released if he renounced violence.

While incarcerated in  Pollsmoor over more than five years, Mandela was hospitalised for four months and was then transferred to Drakenstein prison. In Drakenstein he was moved to the large warden’s house and where he remained until his release.

More than just a prison

One can now have a meal at the prison’s restaurant which is staffed by inmates to assist in their rehabilitation after release. The food is well priced and the service is friendly. Inmates receive recommendations when they are released to support an opportunity to join the hospitality industry and improve their lives after release.

A visit to the prison will not get you inside the walls, but visit the affectionately nicknamed Mess Hall to meet a number of people happy to talk about the legendary man.

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