Thursday, December 27, 2012

13 Moths In Solitary Confinement In A South African Jail

Dear Langley:

      When I was growing up in the 1950's there was a show on television called Alcoa Theater. Each weel there was a segment about a real person and an extraordinary story. One story always stuck in my mind. It was about a man from a small town in North Carolina. He had been a navigator on a B-29 in World War II. When the Korean War came in 1950 he was called back to duty. On a bombing mission over North Korea, his plane was shot down. He had the bad luck to be captured by the North Koreans. This man was not a Rambo or a military hero. He was just a man from a small town with good values and a profound sense of the truth and right and wrong.

       The North Koreans demanded that he sign a statement admitting that he had been dropping poison gas on North Korea. He declined to sign such a statement because it just was not the truth. He was subject to brutal torture and he did not break and sign the untrue statement. Finally the North Koreans loaded him onto a military truck . He was surrounded by armed soldiers. The truck drove away from the POW camp. It stopped in a remote area. He was given a shovel and ordered to dig a hole 6 feet deep to the dimensions of a grave. He dug such a hole. He was then ordered to get into the hole. He was given one last chance to sign the confession. He was told that if he refused to sign the confession he would be shot dead. The North Carolina man again declined to sign the statement. He lowered his head and started to pray. He held his hands together. The North Korean soldiers pointed their AK-47's at him. The North Korean officer in charge gave the loud command to fire. All that was heard afterwards was a bunch of clicks. None of the rifles had bullets in them.

    He was then taken back to the POW camp and put in solitary confinement. He was forced to sleep on a straw mattress. His toilet was a hole in the center of the floor. The cell was not heated. North Korea can be frigid in winters with temperatures dropping to -50 Fahrenheit. You can imagine what his diet was like. Most men subject to this treatment either died or they came out after some months looking like Albert Einstein in his old age and mad.

    The man from North Carolina survived 18 months of this inhumane treatment. He did it using an amazing mental strategy. Back home in North Carolina he owned a plot of land. He had in his mind a dream home that he wanted to build on the plot of land. Each morning when he got up in his cell, he transported himself back to North Carolina and worked on his dream house.

   When he was released from solitary after 18 months he was thin and weak. But his hair was still brown and he was sane. He went around to each North Korean soldier and shook their hands. He told each of them that he forgave them and had no bitterness in his heart.

   I always remembered this story but doubted that I would ever have to use this man's survival skills. In 1991 I got into a dispute with the auto leasing company Stannic (Part of standard Bank of South Africa.) My 5 Series BMW was repossessed and sold. No false insurance claim of a theft was ever presented. No effort was ever made to sell the car and not pay the lien. A South African policeman investigating the matter looked at me with bewilderment. He more or less said that he did not understand why he was talking to me because my dispute with Stannic had been a civil matter.. The only complaint was that I had taken the vehicle out of the country without getting the permission of the lender. He told me that he had been ordered to arrest me for auto theft.

   I was first taken to Pollsmoor medium prison to await trial. This was a prison for white and Asian prisoners. It was civilized. Then as Apartheid ended all prisoners awaiting trial were ordered to be transferred to Pollsmoor maximum security prison next door. (Nelson Mandela had done part of his sentence there.) I was one of the first white 5 white prisoners to enter this notorious all black jail.(One of the prisoners with me was the former South African rugby hero Dries Maritz.) It was terrifying from the beginning. The place literally smelled like a cattle slaughter house. Guards walked around with police dogs. Violence was a constant part of the life there. Several inmates were murdered while I was there. Violent gang fights were an almost a daily occurence.

   I was taken up to the fifth floor of the jail. I was put in an awful cell with a black rubber mat for a bed and two lice-infested blankets. We ate the awful food given to Africans. I had a cell mate. He was a man from Serbia named Mio Lillicanin. One week into my stay, the major in charge of our section of the prison came around. He told us that if we would sign a confession and plead guilty, we would be sent to a humane low security jail. Mio took the offer. The major then arrogantly turned to me and asked me if I was ready to sign a confession. I politely looked at him and said in a firm voice: "Sir I have done nothing wrong and I am going nowhere."

     Mio was led away and I was left alone in the cell. I had no idea of how many months or years that I would be in solitary confinement. I thought back to the story of the man who had survived that awful ordeal in the North Korean POW camp. I had to come up with a strategy to mentally survive this ordeal. I had always wanted to be a writer. Now was mu chance to write a book or two. There was one problem I was not allowed even writing paper or a pencil or a pen.

    One of the guards who came by my cell each day was a man who I only knew as Mr. Williams. He was a Cape Town colored and a good marathon runner. Once he had run the Boston marathon. He liked Americans. He started to secretly bring me pencils and writing paper. I began to write a poetry book that I had had in my mind for a long time.

   My case also began in the Cape Town regional court. I had the misfortune to get Judge Hugget. He was,at the time, the meanest judge in the Western Cape Province. Other prisoners warned me to expect a prison sentence up to 15 years if I was found guilty. I had no money for a lawyer do I represented myself. I studied Judge Hugget carefully. I soon realized that if I met him after work at home he would be a man listening to classical music and reading some classical literature. He was a refined and cultured gentleman. I treated him in that manner. My trial went on for 11 months. (Imagine how much money this cost the taxpayers of South Africa.) Each time the state would present a witness, I would politely destroy them in my cross examination. Judge Hugget developed a grudging respect for my legal skills.

    In the days that I was not in court I wrote my poetry book. When I finished it Mr.Williams smuggled it out. It was later published in the USA.

    Judge Hugget finally got tired of the good battle that I was putting up. He appointed this total incompetent of a lawyer to represent me. At the end of the trial the lawyer put me in the witness box. He and the prosecutor both questioned me. I held up well. Then Judge Hugget started to cross examine me and it was brutal. He even did something totally unethical and illegal. He read statements into the official record that I had never made. At the end of the trial he used these false statements entered into the record to find me guilty of auto theft.

    In the sentencing phase he did something out of character for him. He sentenced me to three years and said that I could go on work release as soon as a position was found for me. He told me that he was going to write a letter to the South African immigration authorities recommending that I not be deported from South Africa. My lawyer and the bailiffs in the court were amazed. They all told me that they had rarely seen him be so nice to a defendant.

    Two weeks later I was told to get ready. I was going to be put on a van to Port Elizabeth. As I was leaving my cell, I did the same thing that the North Carolina man had done when released from solitary confinement in North Korea. I shook the hand of every guard who had worked with me and the major. I told them that I forgave them and had no bitterness in my  heart.

     I got on the prison van and took the ride to Port Elizabeth. When I arrived in Port Elizabeth I found myself in a very humane low-security jail. A few days later a Lt. Colonel in the prison service interviewed me. I found myself on work release at a government facility that served the military, South African police and prison service.

    Langley my only crime had been making some wealthy bankers mad at me for defying their authority. I got a sample of what poor Nelson Mandela suffered for most of his 27 years in prison. It is amazing to me that he lived through all of that and came out to be a great and magnanimous leader.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jacob Zuma's Lavish Palace


We read and know all about this and tend to treat it as dirty laundry in our own backyard ~ but it makes news overseas with who knows what consequences on tourism, investment et al
And don’t we look like turkeys for allowing it to happen
Thanks for sending it Barbara
  MailOnline - news, sport, celebrity, science and health stories
UK gives £19million aid to South Africa - its president spends £17.5million on his palace
It is a nation racked by poverty, where 13million people survive on less than £1 a day, and two million have no access to a toilet.
Yet as his people struggle in squalor, South African president Jacob Zuma has sparked outrage by spending £17.5million to upgrade his rural family home. 
Lavish works – which include the construction of 31 new houses, an underground bunker accessed by lifts and a helipad – will cost almost as much as the £19million British taxpayers send to South Africa in annual aid.
Not quite right...South African president Jacob Zuma continues to have a lavish lifestyle despite many parts of his country struggling for survival
Not quite right...South African president Jacob Zuma continues to have a lavish lifestyle despite many parts of his country struggling for survival
The costly upgrade to Zuma’s once-humble home in the village of Nkandla includes Astroturf sports fields and tennis courts, a gymnasium and state-of-the art security systems, including fingerprint-controlled access pads.
And nearby roads have benefited from a further £40million of improvements.
When African journalists revealed the astronomical cost of the work, Zuma’s ministers turned on the whistle-blowers, saying that revealing the details of ‘top secret’ documents was illegal.
Originally the cost of the project, which began two years ago, was put at £500,000 – but it has since skyrocketed. South African taxpayers are footing most of the bill, although Zuma, a polygamist with four wives and at least 20 children, is said to be contributing £700,000 of his own money – a stretch on his annual £185,000 salary.
However, he also receives a controversial £1.2million in ‘spousal support’ for his wives – despite recently calling on fellow politicians to tighten their belts – and pays only a peppercorn rent of £560 on the tribally owned plot in the Zululand hills where his mansion sits.
Zuma has named his residence a ‘national key point’ – a status invented by the previous paranoid apartheid government – which means it is entitled to security measures ‘in the interests of the nation’.
Bewildering: Work continues on Zuma's 'palace' as 31 buildings in his residence get given the go ahead
Bewildering: Work continues on Zuma's 'palace' as 31 buildings in his residence get given the go ahead
Last week he was grilled in parliament about what he and his family were costing the nation, and struggled to answer, protesting that he was unaware of the scale of the work.
‘All the buildings and every room we use in that residence were built by ourselves as family and not by the government,’ he protested. He did not know the amount spent on bunkers, claiming: ‘I don’t know the figures; that’s not my job.’
Under pressure, Zuma has been forced to agree to two investigations: one to probe the spiraling costs at Nkandla, the other to see if there was a breach of parliamentary spending rules.
Support: Zuma, pictured left, remains high in popularity in South Africa much to do with his friendship with Nelson Mandela (right)
Support: Zuma, pictured left, remains high in popularity in South Africa much to do with his friendship with Nelson Mandela (right)
‘Nkandlagate’ – as the state-owned media have been banned from calling it – is just the latest scandal to engulf the 70-year-old African National Congress leader. In 2004 he faced trial with his financial adviser Schabir Shaik over racketeering and corruption claims for accepting tens of thousands of pounds in bribes from European arms firms.
Shaik was imprisoned for 15 years, but Zuma’s case was ‘discontinued’ after complicated legal wrangling – even though a judge said there was ‘overwhelming’ evidence of a corrupt relationship between the two men.  The following year, a 31-year-old HIV-positive woman accused him of rape. Although he was acquitted, Zuma’s ludicrous claim that he took a shower after sex to prevent contracting HIV made him a laughing stock.
His personal life also came under scrutiny following the 2000 suicide of his first wife, who left a note describing ‘24 years of hell’ with him, and again after the illegitimate birth of another child in 2009. He accused the media of invading his privacy when revealing the scandal.
Meanwhile, South Africa is in an increasingly parlous state, having had its credit rating downgraded following industrial unrest. Workers at the Marikana platinum mine were mown down and killed by armed police last month when they dared to demand better pay. A truck-drivers’ strike later led to more deaths, and last week thousands of farmworkers downed tools in protest at their £4.85 day-rate.
Yet Zuma – who glories in his nickname ‘100 per cent Zulu boy’ – still has substantial support among the people, bolstered by his freedom-fighter credentials, having spent ten years imprisoned on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela.
Britain is committed to spending an average of £19million a year in aid on South Africa until 2015, mainly aimed at reducing HIV. But the Department for International Development is examining how it spends the UK’s aid budget, and recently announced plans to slash the controversial £280million a year it sends to India.