ANC leads - A visit to a South African jail

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 3, March/April 1980

When I was 18 months old my father was sent to jail by the South African government charged with sabotage, furthering the aims of communism and joining the High Command of the military wing of the ANC. Shortly after being sentenced he wrote to my brother and I:

‘I want you to know that I have always done and fought for what I believe to be right. If I am sent to jail, it will be because I am trying, to make a better South Africa for you to live in.'

I have been to South Africa 3 times in order to visit my dad in gaol. The last occasion was over this Christmas period. Altogether I have seen him about 16 times — each visit was about 3/4 of an hour including 4 contact visits, which, because I am now over 16, I am no longer allowed.

As on all previous visits, I had to stay with my white South African relatives who live in absolute luxury — huge houses, servants, cars, swimming pools, pedigree dogs and cats, convenient suburban shopping centres . . . They are a product of that decadent society — their luxury only possible from the sweat of the blacks.

Aside from the very small token black middle class, the vast majority of blacks live in appalling conditions comparable to those of the Middle Ages. They live in areas which are out of bounds to whites, overcrowded townships. Whereas whites eat huge slabs of steak, assorted vegetables and fruits most blacks live on a type of very cheap maize flour called ‘meali pap' (this is white, refined stodge which fills you up but lacks nutrients). Pap is usually served with a thin tomato stew. The infant mortality rate is extremely high due to this appalling diet.

The terrible conditions of poverty coupled with the vicious racist repression of the blacks has not weakened, but on the contrary, has strengthened the revolutionary determination of the black people. Everywhere in the townships, where the imperialists have their slogans for Coca Cola and Wrigleys Spearmint the black people have left theirmark,theirslogan — ANC leads.

For my father the 2 visits and 3 letters of 500 words a month he is allowed are his only contact with the outside world (apart from new prisoners). Pretoria Local Gaol where he is held is a heavily-guarded prison in the centre of the military stronghold of the racist apartheid state Pretoria. To enter it you have to face huge, clanking iron bar doors which are electronically and mechanically locked, frothing Alsatians, warders, bare rooms. In prison, as outside, the cleaners are black — black political prisoners awaiting trial in a separate section of the prison. The black prisoner I saw was extremely thin and scrubbed the floor closely watched by a warder.

I could not touch dad and had to speak to him through cardboard slats (which have little holes in them) on either side of the glass. We had to share our conversation with at least 2 warders — one behind him and one behind me.

I only had to face this spectacle as a visitor. What must it be like inside facing a 20 year gaol sentence with the knowledge that the South African state has never granted remission? Or what must it be like to be on Robben Island (the 'Devil's Island' for black political prisoners) where conditions are far worse than those for white political prisoners in Pretoria?

Nevertheless, my father's morale was high. His three comrades had just escaped from the prison with the aid of the ANC so that they can resume work for their organisation. These three men WALKED OUT OF THE FRONT DOOR OF THE MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON. They escaped from Pretoria Gaol into a town which is effectively a military camp with huge defence buildings and people in khaki uniform everywhere. Yet still they escaped!

Their escape symbolises the future. They won a victory over the supposedly 'invincible' South African state. The South African apartheid state may arm itself to the teeth, may incarcerate people in fortified prisons but the people's will for liberty proves stronger! The men in gaol are strong because their organisation is strong and they know that despite all the attempts to crush it by the barbaric regime, the ANC will be the only force to achieve freedom for the people of South Africa.

AMANDLA! Victory to the ANC!


On Thursday 15 November 1979 James Mange was sentenced to death in the racist apartheid `court' at Pietermaritzburg.

Following the sentence the international protests mounted in support of James Mange have forced the apartheid regime to grant James Mange the right of appeal. Now is the time for urgent action to defend James Mange.

The ANC Treason Trial Defence Committee have announced pickets on South Africa House, Trafalgar Square from 1pm to 2pm on 2 April and 7 May. Everyone should support these pickets to demonstrate their opposition to the murderous apartheid regime, and to show their solidarity with the heroic struggle of the ANC(SA).

The death of James Mange will be a blow to us all. Act now to same James Mange's life!

Free all South African political prisoners

Victory to the ANC


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