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Manufacturing Indaba 2018

Lighter Side of Life on Robben Island available late November

A new book, the Lighter Side of Life on Robben Island, will be released in two editions, a standard paperback edition and a collector's coffee table edition from 30 November 2012.
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The book, published by Makana Investment Corporation, bears testimony to the ability of the people on one of the most notorious prison islands in the world, to rise above their grim circumstances and find the humour in mundane or challenging situations, thus making their lives a little more bearable.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development and former Robben Island detainee, Jeff Radebe has written the foreword and the prologue by Makana Investment Corporation chairman, Peter-Paul Ngwenya, who was on the island for six years.

"There was a belief, ridiculous as it might sound now, that as we were watching TV on the island, it was in turn relaying images of our faces back to Pretoria. The introduction of TV, it was believed, was Pretoria's attempt at keeping us under constant surveillance," says Ngwenya, on the introduction of television to Robben Island in 1987.


The book is authored by three South African journalists - Sunday Times Review columnist, novelist and Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, Fred Khumalo; veteran newsman, political correspondent and currently bureau chief for City Press in Durban, Paddy Harper; and former radio, television and print journalist, Gugu Kunene.

It puts a unique and refreshing spin on how the story of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa is told.

This is done through a collection of anecdotal conversations that reveal the lighter side of life for prisoners on Robben Island; how they coped with the hardships they endured with humour and wit; and how their experiences subsequently became (and remain) the subject of comic relief amongst themselves.

Each chapter highlights a different aspect of life on Robben Island, from political rivalry and the prison's pecking order, to boyish tricks, the Robben Island Prisoners' Record Club, sporting activities, the raconteurs and the final countdown to freedom.

For more, go to