Mandela Capture and Imprisonment

Following his trial in which he was found not guilty in for treason, Nelson Mandela went into hiding. Because some protests took violent measures, Mandela and others were viewed as terrorists. For 17 months, Mandela remained in hiding but continued to use his influence to fight apartheid (South Africa’s equivalent to segregation). With his knowledge from studying law, he knew it be only a matter of time until the apartheid Security Police came after him again.

“Suddenly, in front of us, the Ford was signaling to us to stop. I knew in that instant that my life on the run was over; my 17 months of ‘freedom’ were about to end.” (Taken from Nelson Mandela’s autobiography: Long Walk to Freedom.)

On August 5, 1962, Nelson Mandela was captured near Howick, KwaZulu-Natal.

Now on this historic site stands a visitor center which outlines Nelson Mandela’s life. To commemorate this historic site and event, a sculpture by artists, Marco Cianfanelli and Jeremy Rose was erected on the 50th anniversary.

As visitors turn from the main road, they are welcomed by 50 steel columns of varying heights. The columns look like a random assortment of scrap metal. But following a visit to the main building, guests can walk down the path toward the sculpture and watch it take form. Take a look at the video to watch the change.

On June 11, 1963, Mandela and seven comrades were sentenced to life in prison for sabotage. Due to apartheid, one man was sent to a white prison in Pretoria. The rest were sent to Robben Island.


Mandela served the first eighteen of his twenty-seven years of imprisonment at Robben Island. He and the other political prisoners were held in solitary confinement. They had only a mat on the floor to sleep on and a bucket in the corner for a toilet. Every morning they were required to clean their own bucket.


Each were allowed thirty minutes in the morning and thirty minutes in the evening to walk around the small courtyard area. It is said that Mandela tended to the garden. It was later found out that it was not the garden he really cared about; He was able to successfully hide his manuscripts in the dirt around the plants.


At the end of the courtyard is Mandela’s Garden


The prisoners were required to work at the limestone quarry a short distance away on the island. They were required to work Monday through Friday for eight hours. All work was manual with an ax and shovel. They were not given any protective gear, provided with shelter from the hot sun or the privacy of a bathroom. After Mandela’s release, they found his tear ducts had been damaged. The doctors attributed the damage to the hours of exposure bright sun’s reflection off the limestone. In their later years, many ex-convicts suffered from lung related issues which is suspected to have come from the amount of limestone dust inhaled.

On March 31, 1982, Nelson Mandela was moved off Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town. He was then moved again to Victor Verser Prison in Paarl. On February 11, 1990 he was released from prison after twenty-seven years. And as they say,  the rest is history as he went on to eventually become the President of South Africa.



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