While in prison Mandela needed to keep up on current events outside Robben Island. He needed to keep up on the relevant facts regarding his movement or risk becoming irrelevant himself. To do this he developed a complex system of gathering information. He gathered news from any source available to him; news came from places as simple as scraps of newspaper discarded by the prison staff, to more complex gathering techniques such as questioning newly arriving inmates or the complex codes developed between Mandela and his wife Winnie used to pass information to and from the outside world during their family visits. By using these techniques Mandela maintained a fresh view of the events, successes and developments of ANC keeping him in the fight. Even in isolation the government still feared Mandela’s influence.
In 1976, the Minister of Prisons, Jimmy Kruger, made the long trip to Robben Island from Pretoria to make Mandela an offer that would have allowed Mandela to secure his release from prison and his guaranty his freedom. However, this offer came with a steep set of conditions; first Mandela had to publicly recognize the Transkei government and second he had to move there; therefore separating him from his comrades and the ANC and effectively retiring him. Mandela not wanting to neither turn his back on his life’s work nor leave behind his comrades, turned down this offer saying “It was an offer only a turncoat could accept.”
One particular instance Mandela recounts is the arrival of the members of the Soweto uprising of 1976. These young men belonged to two distinct groups the South African Students’ Organization and the Black People’s Convention. These inmates were young brash and far more outspoken than their older counterparts, they were outraged at the conditions inside the prison and refused to follow any of the prison regulations. Soon after the arrival of these new inmates the prison Commander asked Mandela to speak to them, to ask the new inmates to control themselves and to conform to prison life. Not wanting to be seen in collaboration with the Commander he refused. There were many other confrontations between the prison staff and these new inmates at another such incident the Commander of the prison asked again Mandela to speak to an inmate that was causing problems with a guard, Mandela again refused. He felt that if he spoke in favor of the warder that this would have made him appear to be in collaboration with the enemy and would undermine his position with these young