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Elderly citizens in traumatic Robben Island experience say ’no thanks’ to CEO’s offer

The only enjoyable moment from the group’s visit to Robben Island was the boat ride, group leader Fowzia Veerasamy said. File picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

The only enjoyable moment from the group’s visit to Robben Island was the boat ride, group leader Fowzia Veerasamy said. File picture: Armand Hough / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 11, 2022


Cape Town - The group of elderly citizens who were left bruised and injured during their Robben Island tour, when they were involved in a traumatic bus experience, have said “no thanks” to an offer by the Robben Island Museum CEO to remake and relive the experience.

Instead, the group are demanding a full refund and commitment from the Museum to fork out the medical bills of the injured seniors. They also want the Museum to acknowledge the driver was negligent when they were injured due to his alleged erratic driving.

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On Friday, Robben Island Museum CEO Abigail Thulare apologised to the group, who described the incident as the “most horrible experience ever”.

The group of 35, including 22 senior citizens - some of whom were wheelchair bound - had been to the island as part of a group tour on Wednesday morning.

They were left injured when a RIM bus driver allegedly failed to take due care and also drove recklessly, sending some of the senior citizens sprawling and leaving them injured.

Thulare said the Robben Island Museum was “committed to creating memorable experiences where visitors are treated with dignity and respect, with particular concern given to safety and comfort at all times,”

“Safety and compliance to standards in all our operations is our key priority and if any of our staff or service providers undermine this objective, it will be addressed with the severity it warrants.”

“We are currently engaging directly with the affected parties and will be inviting them back to the island to make good on what was supposed to be an exciting and memorable experience, particularly for the seniors in the group,” said the CEO.

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However, group leader Fowzia Veerasamy told IOL on Friday that they had not spoken to anyone from RIM and that they did not wish to return to the island as the experience was too traumatic.

“No! We don't want to go back to the island because it’s too traumatic,” said Veerasamy, who is also the chairperson of the Gatesville neighbourhood watch.

Veerasamy outlined what the group is seeking now in the aftermath of Wednesday’s incident, where some senior citizens are still reeling with their injuries.

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“What we want is for Robben Island to acknowledge the driver’s negligence. What we want is for them to compensate the three people that are still at doctors and private hospitals for these medical costs and prolonged effects it will have on them,” she said.

“The rest of the group just want a refund and do not want to step foot on the island.”

The group of 35, which includes 22 senior citizens, spent R12 100 for their group tour.

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Veerasamy said once they had returned to Cape Town, they went to the Robben Island Museum head office at the V&A Waterfront where they expected to speak with management about the incident.

However, Veerasamy alleged that management did not come out but only safety officers.

“Two people came to address us, and did not give their job description. While under duress I was told to sign a document and at that exact moment I requested a pain tablet from the medics - myself and three other ladies.”

The document was said to allow the refund to occur to Veerasamy’s account for the most-affected visitors and they did not want to refund the whole group as they requested.

Veerasamy, who says she was not aware she was injured at the time, said she requested to come back the following day once she was in a better frame of mind, but alleges the request was turned down and was told to sign immediately. She signed.

In her statement, Thulare said they were still investigating.

“Staff are being interviewed and statements taken, to ensure we get a comprehensive picture of what transpired, how to prevent a repeat of this and where processes need to be improved,” she said on Friday.