Prisons go non-racial – and censorship eases

And the South African Prisons Service has allowed African National Congress prisoners to receive ANC and South African Communist Party publications and literature – in marked contrast to strict censorship policies practised in the past. For more than four years the white ANC prisoners ran a campaign to be integrated with their black counterparts. 

Now, after several months of being allowed to exercise and meet, the 10 men (six blacks and four whites) are being allowed to share the same block. ANC member Steve Marais, who was released on October 10 after serving four years of a seven-year sentence, said the last month of his term in jail had been spent with the black prisoners. “It really made a huge difference. We, were a bigger group and we were able to share different experiences which made us feel more like human beings.” 

The four white male ANC prisoners are: former South African Navy Commodore Dieter Gerhardt, who has served eight years of a life sentence for spying for the Soviet Union and has since joined the ANC; Karl Niehaus, who has served seven years of a 15-year sentence; Damien de Lange, who has served one year of a 25-year sentence; and Ian Robertson, who has served one year of a 20-year sentence. 

The black prisoners are: Derrick MacBride, who has served three years of a 12-year sentence; former Vosloorus teachers Mandla Vilikazi and Steve Maboa, who were sentenced to 18 years for a Witbank car-bomb attack earlier this year; Umkhonto weSizwe member George Mogapi, who is in his first year of a 12-year sentence; Gideon Ngoamane, who was arrested after the attack on the South African Defence Force radar station in Bophuthatswana: and Sipho Mokwena, who was sentenced in February to seven years for MK activity. 

It is a priority that the two Pretoria ANC women prisoners, Marion Sparg and Susan Westcott, are integrated with the five black ANC women who are being held in Kroonstad,” Marais said. 

  • The Prisons Service said: ”It is the policy of the Prisons Service not to comment on aspects relating to individual prisoners. ”When locked in their cells prisoners are kept busy constructively with, inter alia, reading material, study material in the cases where prisoners are studying, radio programmes, music and games, for example electronic chess sets.”

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.

 

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Gavin Evans
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