The Island’s man of peace

The only PAC prisoner in B- Section at the time of my release from prison in March this year, Nkosi breathed peace throughout my stay on the Island. Soft-natured Johnnie — as he was affectionately called by inmates participated in almost every committee whose task was to promote peace and unity among prisoners in the section.

I once served with him on the welfare committee of B-section. The duty of this committee was to organise birthday, welcoming and farewell parties. The committee, which was democratically elected every year, kept a record of everyone's birthday so that celebrations could be planned.

It also arranged parties to welcome back any inmate who had been hospitalised for a long time in a private or provincial hospital, and organised tea parties every Saturday morning in order to inspire a community spirit in the section.

Johnnie only used to receive visits once a year, during the festive season, from his aged mother. Prior to my release I asked him whether I should encourage his relatives and others people to visit him frequently, but he declined the offer.

He was only 21 when he was sentenced in 1963, together with other PAC cadres including Masemola, his former schoolteacher during his primary school days in Atteridgeville.

Spending his free time in his cell – No 5 Nkosi read extensively for a BSc degree. When I was released he had not yet completed the work for his degree.

He is one of two PAC lifers who rejected Botha's "forswear violence" offer of release. He vowed he would not accept such a conditional offer. He believed he and another PAC lifer, Jeoff Masemola would be released unconditionally one day. 

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.


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