Love conquers pain as Robben Island celebrates 20th mass wedding

14 February 2020 - 16:19 By Sipokazi Fokazi
Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi, centre, with couple Cindy Mullins-Williams, left, and Frankford Williams during their wedding in the Robben Island chapel on February 14 2020. The blind couple are the first to receive a Braille marriage certificate.
Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi, centre, with couple Cindy Mullins-Williams, left, and Frankford Williams during their wedding in the Robben Island chapel on February 14 2020. The blind couple are the first to receive a Braille marriage certificate.
Image: Ruvan Boshoff

When childhood sweethearts Eric Luntinto and Xoliswa Khwatsha visited a Cape Town home affairs office to register their marriage, they got more than they bargained for.

The two were offered an all-expenses-paid wedding on Robben Island, and joined 18 other couples on the ferry across Table Bay on Friday for the 20th Valentine's Day mass wedding in the island's garrison chapel.

“We had just got married traditionally in my ancestral home in Qumbu in January,” said Luntinto from Mfuleni in Cape Town.

“We went to home affairs to make things official and one of the staff members asked if we would like to be part of the Valentine’s Day wedding ceremony.

“There was no way that we could say no as we both fancied the idea of walking down the aisle, but we had no means to do so.”

Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who attended the mass wedding, presented SA's first Braille marriage certificate to Frankford Williams and Cindy Mullins-Williams.

The Eerste River couple, who met at a cricket tournament in the Boland 13 years ago, said they were “over the moon” at being the first to receive the certificate.

Williams, 37, a switchboard operator at 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg, Cape Town, said he was ecstatic at finally marrying the love of his life on Robben Island.

“We’ve been looking for a suitable venue to get married for a long time. So when we heard of the opportunity to marry here, we couldn’t turn it down,” he said.

“It’s something different for us, and to marry where Mandela – my favourite icon – spent so many years of his life is an honour for me.”

Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi, centre, celebrates with the 19 couples who got married on Robben Island on February 14 2020.
Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi, centre, celebrates with the 19 couples who got married on Robben Island on February 14 2020.
Image: Ruvan Boshoff

Motsoaledi said the Valentine's Day wedding tradition was important because it helped to keep Robben Island alive.

“We erase memories of the past and start building the future of the country in this very place where couples are starting their journeys in life together,” he said.

“Those who are planning to get married must come and try it here. It’s very exciting. Those who are already married must keep it up and understand what marriage is all about.”

Rosco and Gillian Noble of Kensington in Cape Town said they felt as if by marrying on the island, they were helping to erase its “sad and painful history”.

“When I think of Madiba and the great sacrifice that he made, I just want to cry,” said Rosco. I wasn’t planning to visit his cell, but I will do it because my wife wants us to visit it.

“I will probably get too emotional, but they say in marriage you have to be selfless so I will go.”


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