Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
A friend who spent time in jail for some silly, petty, once-off crime came back from jail sporting a gap in his teeth.
He said he had feigned a toothache so he could get a trip to the dentist - anything to get away from the boredom of a prison cell.
Indeed, our prisoners are bored. This past Sunday, I drove past Rooigrond prison in North West and remembered an inmate there who sent me on a merry-go-round trip to nowhere, just for the kicks of it.
I was assigned to do a story leaked by this fellow, and it would have made world headlines had it been true.
To get into the prison and have a private chat with the prisoner, I had to accompany his lawyer, to whom he had confessed. I carried a few thick files and walked with a pompous, learned gait these guys must be taught at law school. The prison authorities thought I was a lawyer too and fawned all over me.
The prisoner was brought to us and we were allowed privacy. His lawyer told him who I was and asked him to repeat the scoop.
In a nutshell, he had witnessed prison warders bludgeoning three inmates to death on the prison grounds. He (the prisoner) and another inmate were forced by the warders (he gave us the names) to dig shallow graves for the three corpses just a few metres outside the prison yard. The grave was under a tree on the south-eastern part of the prison.
"You can't miss it. It is the tallest tree ..."
He was taking a big risk talking, but had decided to speak out because if he did not, he could not live with his conscience.
I loved this guy. What a man!
As I left the prison with my "scoop", I looked around and "saw" the tallest tree, which was really a shrub.
I dashed to the office excitedly, clutching my notebook with the names and addresses of the poor, innocent victims of blood-thirsty warders' brutality.
The next thing to do to wrap up my world exclusive was to visit the families of the bereaved and ask them a few questions.
The first family I met in Soshanguve did not know what the hell I was talking about. Indeed, the person I was enquiring about was a member of the family. But he had never been to prison and was away at work.
There must have been a slight mistake here, I thought, as I raced off to Thembisa to see another family.
Right address, right name, but no, the man was not dead. He was once arrested, many years ago, for a petty crime and did time at a local prison. He had left for town and if we did not mind, we could wait for him.
My bubble burst. There was no story - no point in proceeding to the third family.
The (obviously bored) prisoner had sold me a bitter lemon ... the lying bloody bastard.