Ex-Political Prisoners Association demand the release an investigation report into corruption by Robben Island management. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency
Cape Town - Ex-political prisoners from Robben Island are threatening to return and chain themselves to their former cells unless their demand for the release of an investigation report into corruption by the management of the famous jail, now a museum, are met.

The Ex-Political Prisoners Association (Eppa) said they had a copy of the report which was full of recommendations and disciplinary action to be taken against members of the Robben Island Museum (RIM) board and management. Eppa received a copy of the report from the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, in July, but it was put under an indefinite embargo by the minister.

In a letter to the former prisoners dated July 15, the minister wrote: “The report that is enclosed with this letter is being issued for your information only and may not be shared/distributed to unauthorised persons (those outside Eppa) without the department’s written consent.”

Eppa secretary-general Mpho Masemola said they were alarmed by how long it had taken for the report to be released and they were worried that as the year drew to a close, the issue would be forgotten. The report is the result of an independent investigation into allegations of corruption, nepotism and poor governance at the RIM.

“We’ve been waiting for 25 years for all our grievances to be addressed. If they do not do this, we will return to the island and lock ourselves up there in protest,” said Masemola.

He said: “The RIM board had a special board meeting on October 25 at the Nelson Mandela Gateway to discuss the implementation of the remedial action against those implicated in the investigation report, instituting disciplinary measures against those implicated, restructuring of all departments and relations with Eppa and correcting all wrongs of the past laid by Eppa against RIM”.

Eppa is particularly keen on the dismissal of the officials named in the report and said that the officials, by their actions, had brought the museum into disrepute.

“We are very concerned about the silence from the RIM board and the Communications Department about the outcome of the meeting. Disciplinary actions should have been announced after the meeting, which took two days. These matters should not be hidden from the public.”

The museum’s spokesperson, Morongoa Ramaboa, said: “The investigation was instituted by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture. Please contact the ministry directly for an official response on all matters pertaining to the investigation.”

In the letter sent to Eppa, Minister Mthethwa said ministry officials had called Eppa to a meeting to discuss the issue, but Eppa had declined the meeting request, insisting that all they wanted was for the minister to release the report publicly.

Masemola also made reference to an incident earlier this year when RIM commissioned a new ferry from Singapore, which has allegedly ended up incurring costs of more than R100million and failed two SA Maritime Safety Authority inspections.

He also claimed that Eppa members had been excluded as BEE partners by what he termed “racists in the dockyard mafia” and said “the ex-political prisoners fought for human dignity and against the exclusion of black people from the mainstream economy”.

RIM was established in 1997. The island was declared a world heritage site by Unesco in 1999. Between the 17th and 20th centuries, Robben Island served as a place of banishment, isolation and imprisonment.

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Cape Argus