Sunday, 19 July 2009


Robben Island Prison

The word reconciliation pops up a lot in South Africa. When we were at Robben Island yesterday there was a clear message that many people have moved on and want to learn from the past injustices of apartheid rather than dwell on it. I continue to be in awe of those who believed that people should be treated fairly and who stood firm, yet peacefully (mostly) for the cause. Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela and others were imprisoned. Conditions were harsh and they were treated differently according to race.

In the evening we were treated to wonderful hospitality from my NZ friend Tim Barnett, who is now running the World Aids Foundation, based in Cape Town. He introduced our group to Father Mike Lapsley, a New Zealander who stood firm against apartheid. As a result he was sent a parcel bomb, which blew off his hands and removed sight in one eye. He now runs the Institute for Healing Memories in Cape Town and is the NZ Consul there.

I am a firm believer in the power of leadership to make a difference. There is something persistent about these men and women who knew that something was deeply wrong with the apartheid system and found ways to deliver that message. Leadership is courageous, persistent and forgiving. Each of these people had a strong sense of who they were and how we should function as a humane society.

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