Robben Island Interview: Thulani Mbaso 2011

Ryan Alfaro

Our interview today had a humongous impact on me. We spoke with Thulani, an ex-prisoner, about his life struggles. He spent a total of nine years imprisoned on Robben Island. He was convicted of bombing a government building. Thulani described to us the emotional and physical torture he experienced in prison.

Interviewing Thulani, a former Robben Island prisoner

While in prison, Thulani found out that the same guards that had tortured him and shot his father eight times. Hearing his story inspired me to ask a question related to the question we asked Archbishop Desmond Tutu about the difficulty of forgiving seemingly unforgivable things. I asked him if he had forgiven the prison guards that harmed him and shot his father. In response he said that although it was difficult to forgive them, he harbors no anger over the incidents. I found this to be a courageous attitude because, personally, I would have anger and frustration toward the guards.

I was struck by the fact that Thulani is haunted to this day by his time on Robben Island. He described how he shakes when he thinks he sees ex-prison guards. He said he sometimes cries for no apparent reason.

Our interview with Thulani affected me more than any experience we have had so far. I felt like I was reliving his experiences with him. He taught me that you must face your fears head on, like a rhinoceros.