In 2002, my wife Judi and I visited South Africa. While we were in Cape Town, we took a ferry ride to Robben Island, the political prison where Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders were imprisoned. The island is now a museum and the guides are former prisoners. Our guide served 8 years of a 10 year sentence for carrying explosives. He described the appalling conditions that the inmates endured. Our guide recounted how he had recently met a former prison guard, who had beaten him daily. The former guard was on the island to show his wife and two young children where he used to work. The guide warned him that if he was on his tour, he would single him out as one of the brutal prison guards. The former guard decided not to take his family on the tour. The guard did say he would like to sit down and talk with our guide. The guide said he had mixed emotions about such a meeting. I have always wondered whether the two ever met and, if so, the outcome of the meeting.
During our visit to Soweto, a Black township just outside Johannesburg, we asked one of our black guides about his feelings toward white South Africans. He told us that Nelson Mandela invited his prison warden to sit at the head table at his inauguration and then commented, “Where our leader leads, we must follow no matter how bitter or angry we feel.”
Ralph E. Stone
San Francisco, CA 94121