Page 6, 11th October 1974

11th October 1974
Page 6
Page 6, 11th October 1974 — S African jails mirror its society by man just freed

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S African jails mirror its society by man just freed

by NEIL CALVERT Bandiet: Seven Years in a South African Jail by Hugh Lewin (Barrie and Jenkins £3.25) Rhodesian Black Behind Bars by Didymus Mutasa (A. R. Mowbray £2.25) Cold Comfort Confronted by Guy and Molly CluttonBrock (A. R. Mowbray £1.25)

Central Prison, Pretoria, South Africa's "hanging" jail, is the backcloth to Bandiet. Convicted. with others for sabotage in the sixties, Hugh Lewin served seven years for his part and has only recently been released.

I ewin believes that the South -African prison system, with its violence, its pettiness, its corruption. mirrors South African society. By being part of the system he, a white, began to understand what it means to be a black in South Africa.

Central Prison is responsible for more than 100 executions a year more than half of the world's total. This fat clearly had a great effect on Lewin. His description of this aspect of Central is both moving and disturhing, representing as it does not only a total degradation of those directly involved in the twice-weekly exercise but in its turn presenting a damning indictment of apartheid.

Ironically, as Lewin points out, the rope is colour blind. Black and white wait together in the condemned cells apartheid's only exception.

Prison seems to be a common factor in many lives in Southern Africa. Two autobiographies, Rhodesian Black Behind Bars and Cold Comfort Confronted illustrate quite clearly the perils of not only being a Christian but acting like one as well.

The Cold Comfort Farms Society, the central theme of both books, was an attempt to build in Rhodesia a community within which men of differing abilities and racial origins could live and work amicably together.

The society's success in the few short years of its life were in the final analysis its -downfall.

For nowhere else but in Southern Africa would a society with such objectives be deemed to be subversive the alleged grounds for its closure in 1971 by the Smith regime.

The society provided hope and leadership to Africans who were bereft of both. But perhaps more damning in the eyes of the authorities was its application of basic Christian principles; for these struck as the very heart of the assump-, tions and social norms of white Rhodesians, self-styled custodians of white Western Christian civilisation.

The society's suppression in 1971 must in retrospect have come as no surprise. The international reputation that it deservedly enjoyed only delayed the inevitable. Didymus Mutasa, its chairman, was to be imprisoned, Guy Clutton-Brock was to be deprived of. his citizenship and deported to Britain, and the COW Comfort Farm experiment was destroyed, its assets being held forfeit by the State.

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