THE ROBBEN ISLAND INTERNATIONAL HISTORICAL SOCIETY
The RIIHS is an incorporated, nonprofit-making, voluntary organisation in terms of the South African Nonprofit Organisations Act, Act 71 of 1997. It was registered as such by the SA Directorate Nonprofit Organisations in Pretoria on 02 December 2010 and its registration number is 085-203-NPO. Any financial donations and sponsorships are therefore deductable from income tax payable by the donor or sponsor in the Republic of South Africa. The RIIHS is investigating the possibility of registering as NPO in other countries such as the USA, Canada, European countries and even India, Japan, China and Russia.
MEMBERSHIP: The RIIHS at this stage consists of volunteers who in their little spare time do what they can when they can. Membership is open to anybody.
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As the vast field covered by the RIIHS comprises all facets and phases of Robben Island and its history from its beginning up to now, the Island Society hopes to have its own offices and permanent staff members when the circumstances will allow this. This will be in Cape Town.
Our emblem, designed by the graphic artist Jaco Grobbelaar, consists of an old gold depiction of Robben Island (“Our Island”) in the northern direction and with a black borderline; in the upper half is its lighthouse and in the lower part a Cape fur seal – all in shades of brown and old gold.
The main motto of the RIIHS is: “Our Island, Our Shared Heritage.” Our secondary motto is: “Robben Island – Many Things to Many People throughout Many Ages.”
The main objectives of the Island Society are:
- to help conserve and promote Our Island and to help research, preserve and promote its full and rich history since 1488;
- to honour the memory of all who had suffered or served on and/or were buried on Our Island through the ages;
- to have the forgotten and neglected phases and facets or Our Island’s history represented more visually and three-dimensionally on Our Island itself in cooperation with the relevant South African authorities and Unesco;
- to mainly act as an interest group and watchdog – but not as an activist group – with regard to official decisions, legislation, programmes, projects, actions or steps in connection with Our Island or neglect of Our Island; and
- to compile a comprehensive publication – a sort of encyclopedia, that can serve as an international standard work concerning all phases and facets of Robben Island.
The Island Society’s secondary objectives are:
- to campaign for an inclusive, representative Robben Island Museum Council that will include at least one council member representing the era (1845–1931) of the medical institutions on Our Island as well as at least one council member representing the military era, i.e. the period 1939–1961;
- that groups of RIIHS members visit Our Island regularly (if possible at least once a quarter);
- to promote reconciliation, harmony and solidarity amongst all kinds of South Africans by involving citizens of various races, cultures and languages in projects concerning Our Island;
- to reflect the diversity of languages of all who suffered on Our Island and of all who visit Our Island from all over the world;
- to celebrate, including to theatrically present on Our Island, past events that took place on Our Island;
- to obtain research documents in connection with Our Island, including the plan for the professional, scientific management of Our Island;
- to liaise with the South African Leprosy Mission and the International Leprosy Association in order to help eradicate leprosy and to reach out to people who are or were leprous;
- to promote awareness of skin diseases and skin care and counteract stigmatisation of skin conditions;
- to promote awareness and knowledge of mental conditions and mental health and counteract popular misconceptions about the same;
- job creation with Island projects; and
- to put in writing the many lessons that are to be learned from the long and very rich history of Our Island and to publicise them.
- Conservation of Environment and Usages of Our Island
- Our Island should be used for mainly conservation and preservation and should reflect this manifestly – especially the conservation of its natural environment and the preservation of all the phases and facets of its centuries long and rich history should visibly be done justice to on Our Island itself. Our Island should have a commemorative park atmosphere. It should be a green paradise.
- The Island Society will work for controlling or even eradicating alien infestation of Our Island. Animals and insects that are not indigenous to Our Island and degenerate into pests from time to time, have to be got rid of. Choking weed vegetation such as Port Jackson willows, khaki bush and stinging nettle should be rooted out.
- The Island Society is in favour of establishing fynbos on Our Island. A start could be made by planting a row of proteas on the peripheries of the “leper” cemetery/cemeteries.
- Visits by members of the public to Our Island should not be restricted to guided tours only. The public should be allowed to go about freely on Our Island during the day and even to stay overnight, but on a controlled, regulated basis.
- Motorised transport on Our Island should be limited. A plan has to be drawn up to put back into operation earlier modes of transport such as bicycles, donkey carts and perhaps cocopan trams for those tourists who would be interested. Even pedicabs can be considered.
- The old flagged paths should be restorated and even extended in order to be used as a walkway. Weather-resistant park benches can be placed here and there. Stone tablets with suitable inscriptions can be placed at regular intervals all alongside the walkway, especially in the “leper” cemetery/cemeteries and on its/their peripheries.
- Efforts should be made to have examples re-erected of historical structures previously found on Our Island such as a traditional Xhosa hut, “leper” ward, wind pump (windpomp), band stand, fish pond and the garden next to the “leper” ward, as well as restoring the “leper” tidal pool, also known as “the Bath of Bethesda”. The latter can even be used for baptism purposes.
- A memorial containing the names of all patients buried in the “leper” cemetery should be erected in the cemetery.
- Consideration should be given to creating a facility for the storage of the ashes of interested parties such as descendants of erstwhile patients. Such a facility could be incorporated in the memorial.
- Our Island should never ever be used again as a place of detention, especially detention under a warrant or martial law.
- Although Our Island is registered in the Cape Town Deeds Office as Cape Farm no. 432, it should never be operated as a farm again or farming activities be allowed to be carried on there on a large scale.
- More water tanks should eventually be erected wherever possible for catching rain from roofs.
- Solar panels should be erected as far as possible in order to make Our Island self-supporting concerning its electricity needs and to make Our Island in this regard a shining example to the rest of the country.
- The Island Society is in favour of scientific research on Our Island in order to promote environmental isssues such as solar power, wind power, water power, tidal power and the desilination of seawater and brackish water by means of these types of power.
COMMITTEE MEMBERS OF THE RIIHS:
Chairperson: Faan Pistor
Vice-chairperson: Fred Miller
Treasurer: Johan Pistor
Additional member: Stan Cooke