Solitary confinement

From the book: My Spirit Is Not Banned by Frances Baard and Barbie Schreiner

That was terrible. I spent a year in solitary confinement. I stayed there for weeks and weeks. I wouldn't wish for anybody to spend a whole year in solitary confinement. Really, it is a terrible thing. You sit and think. Walk to the window. The window was right up; I had to stand on something - the toilet was next to the window - so I could stand on the toilet to see a little hole there at the window. And you still don't see anything because the cell was downstairs, underground. You stay there in that cell, sit for a while, and then walk for a while. It was quite a big cell. Then I sit again. Sometimes I would sing some songs. You talk to yourself but you don't know what to say! You hear people talking outside but you can't even see them. They take you out for exercise for about five minutes maybe, every day. In the morning they take me out into this little space; I just had to go up and down and then come in again. Sometimes in the afternoon they take you out again and you walk up and down, and then they come and lock you in again. Even when I was doing the exercise I don't see anybody. They didn't even question me, interrogate anything or me; they just left me there for a whole year. I didn't see anyone else except the ones who bring me my food.

They cook food for you there in jail. But when they bring it to you they open the door and they kick it in, and maybe some of it spills but they don't mind. Then you must pick it up and eat it.
When they first put me in that cell there was no water or anything. There was a toilet in the corner of the cell, but no tap or anything, and no water. I had to drink the water from the toilet. I used to wash at that toilet too. But after a few days they brought water for me to wash and drink, and that was better.

I begged and asked them to give me a bible to read, or something, anything. But they refused. A whole year without anything to read and no one to talk to. And a light on in the cell all the time. All day and at night too, the light on. You can't sleep. I was so thin when I came out of there! I remember one person who met me when I came out of there, it was one of those SBs [special branch] who took me there, one of the black policemen, and he was there when I came out. Whoo! He got a shock of his life. He said, 'Mai! Jhoo! Is that you? Why do you look like this? You never looked like this!'

I said, 'Well, what do you expect? I've been in jail for such a long time.' That man couldn't believe it.

I think they were trying to kill me somehow, but my spirit was too strong. I have always been a churchgoer, but they wouldn't even allow me to go to church that time I was in solitary. But my spirit kept me alive because I knew that freedom would come one day, and my faith in God too, kept me strong. The only thing that kept me alive was the hope that one day, what I'm here for, I will get it.

I spent that whole year, a little bit of exercise sometimes, and then just sit and sit, and no-one to talk to, and nothing to read, and I try to look out of the window and watch the cars go past. Day after day with nothing to do. And so a whole year went by. And then after that year they took me to court now for my case.

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