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  • I was on holiday a few years ago in South Africa, Cape Town to be exact. We decided to take a trip to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned for 27 years. A story so very well known the world over.

    But behind that I found another story of greatness and hope that the world that the world has not seen. It was the untold story of others imprisoned at the same time and of those who did not follow the path of the great Mr Mandela.

    I was compelled to write this piece (or at least most of it) on the journey back to the mainland.

    Once on Robben Island, it is the ex-prisoners that are prison tour guides, they tell their stories. This first hand account is immensely powerful and our particular guide showed me something I had never expected.

    Around 40% of ex-prisoners are out of work, some take up violent activity, many are still struggling for their lives and a small percentage are tour guides re-living their past tortures on a daily basis for passing tourists. Our guide scraped by on this living, his current state of life was still desperately tough.

    I was captivated when he talked about his time of incarceration - his eyes lit up, there was a defiance, a worth cause to fight and the overcoming of brutal struggle, all of his stories were of survival bound with endless hope. There was a light behind his eyes, it was intoxicating and I was utterly humbled.

    His fight continues, its a different struggle and this piece is my tribute to him as a thank you for the lessons he gave me. He overcame, he continues to overcome and actively participate his the growth of his soul. Despite any given situation he is determined to share love, knowledge and to pass on his wisdoms and for this I am very grateful.

    Robben Island

    Trapped by the freedom of Robben Island
    You showed me your solitude respectfully
    A time when it seemed
    Your life
    Not only meant life imprisoned
    In waves
    By bars
    Held down by oppressed oppressors
    Life meant
    Life imprisoned
    In expanding your soul’s humanity
    Built on brutality,
    The darkness served only to illuminate your light
    Gave you fight
    Gave you a cause
    With your eyes alight
    You grew in barren quarters
    Meter by meter
    A motherland you transformed
    Squared in by walls
    With thicket hidden strength
    You battled on
    You battled strong

    I know not your step nor shoe
    I do not know your now
    But I see tiredness in your eyes
    New wardens you teach of your pain
    Show them your past,
    Time bought tourists
    To tell of your torture

    And for you,
    Too few privileges

    Same old story
    A Rand or two
    Placed in hand
    At lacking’s bequest

    Released into acceptance
    40% say you
    Fellow fighters
    No work
    No life
    No more cause than I

    And I wonder as I see
    ‘Did democracy give you your freedom’?
    The should have's could have's may have come to bear
    The wrong type of mercenary
    Left alone and driven to
    Killing for living

    That was not bird that called for you
    Knowing now - knowing what to do.

    One struggle you won,
    Bringing plentiful more,
    Cashed in on one struggle for another,
    Seemingly bountiful war
    Never sure when it plans to end
    Addressing now with every cause
    And call to arms

    You turn from military justice
    And their like,
    Came back

    Came back to jail
    To teach the listening hoards

    The bars did release you
    Some freedoms found and
    Some freedoms lost
    Found was your fight
    Your freedom found in your soul
    In your light

    This tourist you shared
    A story, telling your deepest scars,
    And a knowing

    That the light of strength will always shine with the brightest possible light.
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