Party Planned at Mandela's Prison Island

Mandela reportedly will spend New Year's Eve on island of former prison

Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa and former prisoner will reportedly spend his New Year's Eve on the island in which he was inprisoned.

Robben Island, kilometers (4 miles) off the coast of Cape Town, is now a museum, attracting thousands of tourists who go on a somber three-hour tour. It includes stops in the tiny cell in which Mandela was held and the limestone quarry where he spent years crushing rocks.

The Associated Press reports a museum official as saying the Nobel peace prize would see out the millennium on the small barren island where he spent 18 of his 27 years as a prisoner of the apartheid government.

On Dec. 31, the mood on the island should be a more festive one, with organizers pulling out all the stops for South Africa's premiere millennium bash.

Details of the black tie event and the guest list are still being finalized, but about 500 VIPs are expected to attend, among them President Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Mandela in June.

Top international artists will perform for them and there will be poetry and literature readings.

The theme will be African and three international television networks will broadcast the night's events to an audience projected at between 2 and 3 billion people.

The event is one of three national millennium celebrations sanctioned by the Cabinet - the others will be held at the Union Buildings in the capital Pretor!ia and on the beach front on the East Coast city of Durban.

The organizers are still trying to work out what to do with the guests and the 500 staff looking after them after midnight because there is not sufficient accommodation for them on the ecologically sensitive island, which is earmarked to become a World Heritage Site.

DATE: 10/22/99

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