Thursday, July 13, 2017

Inmates are the Scourge of the Earth

To most people, inmates of prisons are the scum of the earth.  How many times have I heard the “He did the crime, he must do the time” and how often have I heard derogatory remarks about prisoners?  We watch the news or read the newspapers and actually get a kick out of reading about another person who is put in jail for a long period of time.  Inmates are viewed as the scourge of society and I am going to do my very best to show the world that prisoners are people too.  I think the worst thing I heard being said about an inmate is that “I hope he rots in jail”, or “he does not deserve to be treated like a human being and therefore should have no human rights”.
I made a commitment today – a commitment to the young and old men in Medium B at St Alban’s Prison.   I have committed myself to be their liaison officer, their mentor, their go-between, their friend and their confidante.   Against doctors’ orders and the absolute horror expressed by my mom and my husband, I went and did a three-hour workshop on debating, reviewing and writing skills for approximately 25 men.   I don’t know who had the better time – they or I.  I had an amazing time spent with such an incredibly diverse and yet coherent group of men.  Not once did I feel threatened in any way.  I was in a very safe space, no wardens around and just the inmates and me.
I prepared nothing – I was skating on my arse with the experience I already had.  They had prepared so many things for me; two reviews on one of my books, a Capella with rap, poetry written and recited to me … they were amazing.  And Heinrich van Rooyen organized all that to take place.   A huge big thank you must go to Mr PC Plaatjies, the warden who made this all possible.
We were serious, we laughed, we squealed with delight – there was nothing but sheer joy in that classroom for three hours today.
Those are not animals in there, as I have also heard them described.  They are gentlemen; they are intelligent, pleasing to the eye and most entertaining.  And each and every one of them have crept into my heart.  As I always have to have something greater than I am to live for, I will be living for this group of amazing human beings as well.

Who amongst us all, have not committed a sin?  Who amongst us all, have never made a mistake?  It was a privilage and an honor to spend those three hours in their company.  Those are my boys now!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Open Letter to my Siblings

I hope you will look at all your good qualities and realize how important you are to those who love you.
Reflect on all the things that make you – you.
I hope you’ll find ways to make the difficult times easier, your cares lighter and the days brighter.  I pray that mysteries will unfold for you to make a difference in your life now.
I hope you’ll tap into that source of strength I know is within you, that place where hope and courage live and new ideas are born.
I hope you will connect with the kind of faith that helps you to reach your chosen goals.  As you ease from one day to another, I hope you find time to consider the miracle of your own life and the beauty of your humanity.

I hope that a band of ministering angels will hover around you and protect you. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Some Days are Just Shit !

Some days are just shit. We all have them. There is no other word to describe it. You feel so down and demotivated that you can fly kites under a carpet with ease. No one can say anything to lift your spirits and even if there are those who care, not even their words can lift you out of the doldrums. There is just no wind beneath your wings. You don’t know what steps to take to change the situation. You stuck in a no man's land, alone with just your overwhelming negative thoughts that come from something that was done to you that was unfair, cruel or even something that you would never do to another person. This period of unrest of the soul is needed so that the debris and the dirt can be discarded and a new plan and life can be carved out of the old. So, sometimes these shit days are necessary. Today was one such day for me. Tomorrow will bring numerous ideas and plans. And then the kite can fly in the sky again

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Why Would Someone Risk Everything to Make a Stand for Human Rights

Ken Wiwa, the son of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a human rights activist who was executed in November 1995 in Nigeria, asks in his book "In the Shadow of a Saint", "What is it that compels a man to risk everything - his life, his family, the lives of people around him - to make a stand for human rights?"

I am trying to answer this question. It is not religion. It is a deep horror of injustice that drives me to do something about it. It is also a feeling of being the only one to really see the pain and abuse, the feeling that not enough people are prepared to do something, or to take action...this is what drives me to take more and more risks. It is a feeling of not having enough time and of a job that is too large to complete. It is a feeling of living in the moment because tomorrow will be too late. It is a feeling of every life being precious and if nothing is done about the other out there, then nothing will be done about these around me. It is a feeling of "if I look out for those, then these of mine will be OK". It is a deep resentment of the abuse of others. It is a loathing of unkind and uncompassionate behaviour. It is the contempt for those who sit by and do nothing, knowing that while they look on they are as much to blame as the abuser and the oppressor. It is a feeling of frustration that pushes me to the limits of my endurance. It is an all-consuming love of the people, of those who need protection the most.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Truth Teller - The Impimpi...Why Now?

The year I got sick 
It has taken years of chronically and often life-threatening illnesses to strip away slowly at everything that I held dear in my life.  And suddenly I was facing an adjustment disorder.  I have my own psychology degrees, so it has been a case of healer, heal thyself.

Apart from ill-health, there has been enormous financial strain with added expenses which have made us fly kites under a carpet.   It is not easy to start a new life at the age of 61 for my husband, starting from scratch in a country he had not lived in for over 20 years.  

With what I thought was an amazing opportunity, I got an online computer job writing web content for the SEO of a pharmaceutical company – yes, writing about Viagra and all the generics for erectile dysfunction.  No one else wanted the job, so I took it.  I know one hell of a lot about impotency and soft and flaccid penises now.  The remuneration was wonderful and for a month, we were starting to float.  The following month, the person in charge dropped the ball and all the writers were fired, without pay and with immediate effect.  After chasing the story down it was found that the pharmaceutical house was nothing but an online drug dealer.  So that went out the door.  Back to flying those kites under the carpet.

Then I got very sick. I was drowning in my own fluid.  Discovery are amazing – they have come to the party and I am being home nursed with drips and all the paraphernalia I need.   While I have been lying here, writing and thinking and pondering and reflecting over the last three weeks, I have had to take a good long hard look at what I want from life.  Being one in ten million people with this disease does not make me special – it makes me a problem.

The crying and the grieving has been done.  It is time to dry the tears and get on with the business of living.  My spirit does not belong in this body. I am like the old lady struggling to move down the street, but her shadow is a young girl dancing with abandon.

I made the decision to share my life, every bit of it - the nice, the good, the ugly, the bad, the not too bad and the not too nice; leaving nothing out…telling the truth 100% of the time.
There are many reasons for my decisions. Some are:
  • Giving the abused child of my heart a voice 
  • Allowing my soul to soar with freedom
  • Making myself transparent
  • To be truly authentic I must be brutally truthful about everything that has been, is and will be in my life 
  • To allow those who have been damaged by part of my own past to come to terms with their healing as well 
  • To show that child abuse affects a person their whole lives but that there is a way to become a survivor
  • To become a ferocious activist for prisoners - particularly for those who are incarcerated for crimes they did not commit
  • To inspire, help, encourage and provide my own brand of quotes for people to use to reflect on their own lives and to just have a good laugh
  • To do what I love and love what I do and that is to write – so the books will come, the blogs will come and … we shall see what the good Lord Himself has in store for me.

There will be those who will not like what I write, but that is their business and not mine.  They do not have a gun pointed at their heads forcing them to read what I write.   But I do know now that there will always be thousands more people who will appreciate truth rather than the bullshit that is spoken so often

I want my life to have meaning and I want to leave a legacy with my stories for my grandchildren to know who I was one day.  What better way than to tell my own truthful stories. 
I am now a freedom writer!  And probably an impimpi as well!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Childhood Memories - Dedicated to Those who Think they know Better but were Not there

My Paternal Great Grandmother, Shane, Joy & I 
There has been so much wara-wara about me writing the truth about my childhood and living with a father who was a street angel and a home devil, let me put you in the picture why it is that there are friends of my siblings that say that he was never anything but charming to them.  These people who are phoning my sister Joy, are creating a furore about nothing but I understand.
I was the first child born, my poor mother did not know what was happening and she had her head buried in the pillow with her bum in the air, screaming and flailing her legs up and down from the knees.  She was in a nursing home run by nuns and in those days, fathers were not allowed in the delivery room.  Well, out came this pink baby with red hair and it was a girl.  I do think that my father was a little disappointed that I was not a boy, although when I asked him about it when I was in my 30’s, he just looked at me and did not answer.
We were Roman Catholics so there was no such thing as contraception and even the reverse method was frowned upon by the church.  So the babies came.
The next child was Joy.  My mother had tuberculosis and spend her second and third trimester in an isolation hospital with few visitors other than the Catholic priest who would often come and play cards with her in the afternoon.  Little did she know that her husband, with the full knowledge of his mother, was carrying on with other young and loose women.  My father could charm the panties off of any woman, married or not.  I once witnessed my father pick up a young hitchhiker when I was around 10 years old and take her to the Lounge Tearoom, the only place in Umtata where women could also go and be with their men and have a meal or a coffee.  Pubs in those days were for men only, although there were ladies lounges where women would sit and drink on their own, with the husband bringing out a drink for them every now and again.   The Lounge Tearoom had a juke box.   Holding this young girls hand (She could not have been a day over 19), he put money into the juke box, chose a song and danced with her around the tearoom in the middle of the afternoon.  She was smitten.  I could never have told my mother that story.  She was already hurting too much from his infidelity.
While my mom was in the Isolation Hospital, I was being taken care of by my grandmother, who I called Mom.  It kind of made sense; because everyone else called her Mom.  My grandfather I called Pa, because everyone else called him Pa.   I was the apple of Mom and Pa’s eye.  They showered me with clothing, with everything to match, from frocks to shoes.  Mom kind of took me over from my mom and when Joy was born, Mom ignored her most of the time.  Joy was born at home with my father in attendance.  Because my mom had been so ill during her pregnancy, Joy was a small blue baby who the doctor did not think would live, so she was christened at a day old.  My father tells the story of how he promised God that he would always take care of Joy if she lived.  He says he gave the breath of life to Joy.   My mom says that is hogwash, but I was not there.  Joy was always my father’s favourite child.  She never smiled until she was over a year old and her first words were “Mommy, I think you are a bloody fool”, and spat her food out.  My mom could never get Joy to stop swearing.  She broke a wooden spoon on her but still she swore.  It was just who she was.   My father would never have acted out anything bad when in the company of Joy, so it makes sense that her friends know nothing about the home devil he was.  Look at the picture on the blog where I speak about my father beating my mother and my inability to sleep ….he did not take photographs of Joy.  Joy was left in her bedroom to sleep, while he made us watch him beat my mom up and then take photos of us.   So to those friends of hers that do not believe my story, I know why you don’t.  BUT, this is my story so don’t deny me the right to my own truth as I would never doubt your story of your own truth.  My mother had four children under the age of five; all born at home with my father playing midwife.  He was a very good medical person for someone without any medical training.  I believe that if he had had the chance to channel his brilliance into something like medicine, it would have over-shadowed his dark side.  Shane came after Joy, Yolanda after Shane (and my father denied his paternity to her until she was an adult, saying that she did not look like his other children.  She was beautiful (still is) with the same olive skin as my mother.  She too is a brilliant person who could have been anything she wanted in life, but sadly, that did not happen so her dark side comes out every now and again.   Because Shane was 11 when my mom left, he missed out on the mothering that would have made him a well-rounded person.  He had a terrible time with my father even when my mother was still at home.  I have a lot of empathy for that boy.  When I was 11 my mom had her last child and her name was Gizelle and she was born in the same nursing home as I was in Umtata.   Gizelle is a story for another day.  This story is about Joy and why her friends are involving themselves in my story and not believing that what I am saying is the truth.  I think that since they are my friends too they should have asked me before going mouthing off to Joy.  I have been doing a blog for the last 8 years and not one of my siblings have read a thing I have written, but now it is all wara-wara and big deal stuff.  Well, let them wara-wara if that is what is making their little worlds go round.  Like Shane’s wife, Mary-Ann, the friends have taken things out of context from my blogs, while Mary-Ann took things out of context from Shattered.  
I started school at 5 and because Joy was adamant she also wanted to go to school, my mother let her go to school at the age of 4, bluffing that she was older.  Joy was brilliant at school, top of the class all the way through until matric when she fell of the school band wagon.  My earliest memories of Joy are those where she is playing teacher/teacher to the flowers, with a ruler in her hands and admonishing the flowers for not listening to her by chopping their heads off with the ruler.
Memories are made from being there, from the age it happened and the connection between the people.  This is something that Joy’s friends have not taken into account.
Naturally, Joy is upset with me, but if she had taken notice of what I wrote about or even read my books, she would not now be shocked by the ‘out of context’ remarks that are being made to her by her so-called friends.
But another amazing phenomenon has also occurred.  Since writing the blogs of my childhood, other people my age have been calling me and telling me things that they witnessed, things they had done to them, some things I know about and others that I don’t.  I am going to be writing a book called A Love Story, and these snippets are the beginnings of that story.  It would make the book far too long if I were to include these blogs I am doing.  It would end up a trilogy and I do not have the time afforded to me on a scale of probability.
I will repeat again what I have always held true is that family is not defined by the DNA we share, but by shared values of others.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Framed Heinrich van Rooyen's life in Prison

We must find a way to un-frame him 
As most know, I have been visiting Heinrich van Rooyen at St Albans prison for a while now, every second Sunday if I am well enough to go.  But I had to go on Sunday, sick as I was with staphylococcus pneumonia but dressed warmly, masked and had a drip up. I also took my nebuliser with me just in case.
Heini was looking good and as usual overjoyed to see us.  We were also asked if I could see another prisoner who has a problem with his parole hearing and when I looked into his eyes, I saw that there was no killer there at all.  I am going to see how I can help him chivvy the legal aid board that deals with paroles.  But that will be a story for another day.  His name is Marius, and as I have experienced, a gently and soft man in the wrong place.
Because this was a good staff complement this week, everything went quite smoothly and we did not have to wait long to see Heini.  There was a bit of a scuffle because inmates have to sit on iron benches and visitors on wooden benches and my wheelchair could only stay on the side of the prisoners.  Not that it bothered me in the least.  I have met a lot of wonderful inmates during this time and they have all been kind to me, far more kind and considerate than the wardens.  But again, this particular group of wardens who work every second weekend really show their humanity and compassion.
In the visitors area is a shop that gets put up and taken down after visiting hours.  No one may bring any food into the prison and everything has to be bought from that shop.  Now here in lies a slight problem.   The shop is not allowed to make money out of the inmates.  There is a court order that the shop is not allowed to profit 0ff the inmates.  It can be found in the Correctional Services Act 11 of 98; Section 121, 122 and 123.  The shop should not be allowed to make an internal policy that is not in line with the law.   This law deals with goods  sold to inmates.
Every time I go there, I go with my scrap of paper that has written on it what the prisoner needs to purchase.  The prisoner is not allowed to go buy but the visitors are and in a wheelchair it can become something of a problem.  Nevertheless, we always buy bananas, tomatoes, Russian sausage, pies, niknaks, suckers and cheese.  Nicknaks and suckers are what you can use to trade for something someone else has that they need and you don’t have.  This internal policy of St Albans should be stopped.  
Over the last month, prisoners are being transferred without their permission (they must want to go) to other prisons (Kirkwood and Middelburg) but are not allowed to make a phone call home to let their families know that they are moving to another prison because the wardens cut the phone lines. This is an illegal transfer. More forced transfers are expected but because of no phones they are unable to complain to their families.  They can’t phone their lawyers.  If you go to the psychologist or the social worker to make an official call, you are being told that they are not allowed to make the call for you, although they are subsidised by the state monthly to make official calls for us.    This kind of treatment of the inmates proves that they don’t want any information to get out, just as I put onto my FB page today on St Albans.
The procedure on transfers states that an inmate must have written a request to be transferred.  Such an application needs approval and that inmate must provide an address of a next of kin that is staying close to that prison.  That is the ONLY reason the inmate would want to be transferred.  This is also apparent with what was done with the beaten up inmates on the Boxing Day 2016.  Many that were injured were just shipped out to other prisons so that there would be no coordinated procedure for ascertaining what had taken place.  It was blatantly obvious that AFTER the situation was under control, the wardens and dogs pushed and shoved the inmates into a corner where they could not get out and they were set about with batons, leaving an alleged 3 inmates tortured to death.  While I do not condone the behaviour of the inmates to stab wardens, there does come a point at which the oil boils over when no human rights of prisoners are given to them and they are in lockdown constantly and are never allowed out for exercise.  The frustration levels must have been the culprit here, but the wardens did not have to beat or torture people to death after they had secured the situation in three separate passages.
At least the inmates are paying for their crimes.  These warders make mob justice and corruption appear legal.  I have the names of the wardens responsible for this atrocity.   The inmates think that those wardens are just murdering gangsters and the inmates feel above them in their value structures. They belong in prison more than a lot of inmates.
Then I had a full blown asthma attack.   The St Albans Investigating Officer was fast to find a plug for my nebuliser and to help set it up and put the medication in.  The prisoners were concerned and the Investigating Officer was concerned.  The kindness I was shown on Sunday by the Investigating Officer and the prisoners was a sight to behold.  I wish I knew the investigating Officer’s name so I could thank him properly, but I will do that when I go back to visit Heini. As you can imagine, once the breathing was under control, we left a few minutes earlier than normally.  I did however, have the chance to speak with Marius Rondganger about his parole.  His case is also a travesty of justice.   And before I end off, let me tell you what Heini told me about his court case.  “At the end of the first half of my trial, Terry Price informed me that Judge Nathan Erasmus that we have to bring an application that he, the judge must be changed.  During the break, the whole atmosphere changed.  Terry convinced my family that it was necessary to change the judge.  He heard from a Judge friend that Nathan Erasmus told that judge that he’d found me innocent.  This was a trick forcing us to keep Erasmus.   That was the biggest mistake because from there everything went south.  The decisions made around all the Trial within trials were so biased he could not even give a reason why he denied my application to appeal.  This was total bias.  Terry Price’s move cost a man his life and his family 1 million 8 hundred thousand rand in legal fees.  For what?  To put an innocent man in prison for two life sentences and 28 years with no leave to appeal?”

It is a not so well-veiled secret as to why the 2005 murders of Victoria Stadler and Jessica Wheeler and by whom.  Most people in Knysna know who did it.  I have been told the names as well.   Drugs, dealers, young girls, lack of money and gangsters are the recipe for murder.  Who murdered those girls?  Why won’t the Independent Police Investigative Directorate open the case again?  Are they shielding their own or will it be too much of an admission of ineptitude if he is released and he can sue them for wrongful arrest and imprisonment?   The police want Heini to go back to court and the Judiciary want Heini to go back to the cops!!!  And in the meantime the years of sitting in prison continue unabated with little hope of a decent closure for this family.  They have all been punished.