How far do these three sources differ about life on Robben Island

In Source H there are three different accounts of what life was like on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner. In source 1, the South African journalist Ormonde Pollock says that life on Robben Island is not what people stereotype it to be, “One goes to Robben Island with a preconceived notion”. He explains that “In the few hours… we never saw anyone who appeared to have been ill-treated. ” Pollock also explains that it was nothing like the statement that the United Nations published, saying that, “… prisoners… re accorded especially cruel”. In the second source by an Australian journalist, David McNicoll, Nelson Mandela explains that Robben Island is not that bad and explains that Mandela devises his own ways of information and how it stops him from getting depressed. Mandela also explains that he knows his “cause will triumph” and he is satisfied by the way things are proceeding. The last sentence of the source reads, “I would like you to listen to some complaints” and a footnote at the bottom says that sixty-five words have been deleted.

In the third source by an ex-prisoner, Neville Alexander, it explains to the others contradiction that Robben Island was “hell on earth”. Alexander describes how the guards treated the prisoners and how they “would often punish the prisoners by seating them in the most disadvantageous places”. The sources contradict themselves in many ways, for example, on the surface Source 1 is saying that life is not bad on Robben Island and that the idea that there are “prison staff armed with machine guns, pacing the parapets”, are not true and it is just a “preconceived notion”.

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But in Source 3, however, Alexander describes how harshly the prisoners were treated and life was “hell on earth” and the guards go out of their way to make life as miserable as possible for the prisoners. The contradiction means that the sources are very different and there are mixed feelings of what really goes on at the Island. The reason they seem to contradict each other is because they were written at different times and Alexander who was an ex-prisoner of Robben Island could be exaggerating or using the passage as propaganda against the Nationalists.

Source 2 seems to contradict its self, by this I mean that on the surface it looks as though Mandela is saying that prison is not that bad and he does not get depressed but when the last part is read it seems that Mandela then goes on to say how the prison is not so good and the treatment of the prisoners is not good. When the Sources are looked at under the surface they give a different approach and they more or less agree with each other. If Source 1 is studied in more detail it becomes apparent that the wording of the passage goes on about how there were no “staff armed with machine guns” and “barbed fences”.

It is as if Pollock is being sarcastic and giving fake praise to the prison. By highlighting all the complaints Pollock seems to be mocking the system. It is possible that Pollock wanted the readers to read between the lines and see what the prison as really like. The government was very aware of things such as this happening and it is possible that the reason why the Source says that Robben Island was not harsh is because Pollock knew that if he wrote differently that the article would never be published.

Another way in which source 1 agrees is that in the source it says “In the few hours of going through the prison… ” The main point here is that the visit to the prison was only for a few hours. It may be that the guards did not show the journalist through the whole site or hid things from him. The visit was obviously pre-arranged too because there was not much chance of turning up and being shown round with only a few days notice. In this time the prison could have made itself look respectable and as though the prisoners are treated well.

Source 2 also agrees with the other sources to some extent because David McNicoll who wrote the article asked Mandela whether he gets depressed in the prison. His answer is “No, we devise our own way of obtaining information, and this stops us from getting depressed”. The point in this is that Mandela says that he does not get depressed but he does not talk about any of the other people and their point of view. But Mandela then goes on to say that he would like McNicoll to “listen to some complaints”.

This is where the passage ends but the footnote then says that there have been sixty-five words deleted. It is obvious that this source has been censored. Mandela must then go on to explain that the prison is not as it seems. From this the sources all agree with each other because they all give the impression that Robben Island does not treat the prisoners well. They all also admit to the fact that Robben Island has a bad reputation and the possibility of cruelty towards the prisoners.

When Mandela then goes on and says that his “cause will triumph” he is proving that he is very politically motivated just like Walter Sisulu in source B when he says that he is sure that the NP are on their last legs. Mandela believes that he will still win his points even though he is in prison. This also links to Source G when Illingham implies that no one can hold Mandela down. Source 3 seems to agree with the others because it says that the prisoners were treated harshly and the guards would go out of their way to make life miserable for them.

But there is a possibility of exaggeration and maybe the writer wants to make it look more dramatic than it really is. This maybe because the source was printed in 1994 and this was the year that Mandela was allowed out of prison and he began to run for election. This means that maybe he wants to point out that the people that put him in prison and the guards that worked there did not look after the prisoners. The point is that he may be trying to get his own back and saying to them that they treated them harshly for no reason and Mandela became President anyway.

As a conclusion it is obvious that on the surface, without studying them in depth the sources all contradict themselves. Source 1 says life is good, Source 2 has a neutral view but then says that life is not great and gives to sides to the argument and Source 3 says that life on Robben Island was “hell on earth”, and they were not even allowed to talk to the person next to them for most of the time. But it becomes more apparent that the sources are all alike when studied in depth. In Source 1 Pollock is being almost sarcastic and pointing out the complaints and turning them in to praises and trying to make people read between the lines.

Source 2 is also putting life on Robben Island into a bad perspective as the source has been censored cutting out the passage where Mandela clearly states that life on Robben Island is cruel and source 3 generally says that life was bad although this could be exaggerated to some extent because Alexander thought that it was time that people knew what really happened and to prove they were un-necessarily cruel because if they had or had not done it Mandela would still be running for election anyway. This is why the sources do not differ too much of their accounts of life on Robben Island.