- Robben Island outside Cape Town is mostly known as a high security prison during South Africa's apartheid era, and for its most prominent prisoner, Nelson Mandela. Each Valentine's Day, however, the prison turns into a romantic site for couples from all over the world, wanting to tie the knot.
To get wedded on Robben Island, however, a special permission from South Africa's Department of Home Affairs has still to be solicited. Wedding ceremonies are only arranged on Valentine's Day, the next coming up on Monday, 14 February.
According to information released by Leslie Mashokwe of the Department of Home Affairs, ten couples have already confirmed their intention to exchange marriage vows at Robben Island during Valentine's Day.
Love struck couples until this afternoon can contact the Department to reserve their participation in "this gallant event," the South African ministry said in a statement. The cut off date is 12:00 pm today, local time. "Only 25 couples can be accommodated on a first come first serve basis," the Department added.
South Africa's Department of Home Affairs has since 2000 solemnised marriages at Robben Island. Since the start of this tradition, 97 couples have so far been married at an island, which was once a symbol of hatred but has now evolved into part of South Africa's national heritage.
In 2000, 18 couples heeded the call to celebrate the Millennium as they tied the knot at the island. Last year a record number of 28 couples also exchanged their marriage vows at former President Nelson Mandela's prison for 27 years. In 2003, 19 couples said: "I do", in 2002 15 got hitched, and in 2001, 17 were also married at the Island.
The Valentine marriages at Robben Island "have attracted couples from as far as Germany, England and other parts of Africa," the South African government informs. Local media are expected to cover the 14 February event, which is turning into a tradition.
Robben Island, located 12 kilometres off the coast near Cape Town, was used as a prison for oppositional Africans right from the start of European settlements in the Cape Colony. Prisoners during these 600 years have included indigenous African leaders, Muslim leaders from the East Indies, Dutch and British settler soldiers and civilians, women, and anti-apartheid activists.
Since 1997, the prison on the island has been a memorial and museum and its unique nature has been protected, attracting a large number of tourists each year. For South Africans, Robben Island is not only a symbol of racist oppression but increasing a proud site of national heritage and a symbol of the victorious fight against apartheid.
The Robben Island Museum aims at restoring the image of the island and its prison as "a place of triumph." Focusing on South African heritage, the museum is keen to arrange positve events on the island.
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