Raymond Suttner: Inside Apartheids Prison

Ocean Press, 2001

* 1945, Durban, South Africa

Charge: Participation in the activities of the ANC and advancement of the objectives of communism
Prison: Pretoria Local Prison, South Africa (Map)

Chapter 12
Letters, 1976-82

"The following letters were written during the first term in prison as a convicted prisoner. They cover the period from 1976 to March 1982, when I was in Pretoria Local, and from April 1982 to the end of that year, when I was in "Maximum". Other white political prisoners were also serving sentences at this time.
These letters were subject to stringent censorship. It was strictly forbidden to write about subjects - in particular, prison conditions and political matters.
We took pains to avoid some topics. We did not want to write about tension between fellow political prisoners, or divisions in our ranks, or difficulties that we might have had in coping with prison life. We did not want to give the authorities any ammunition to use again us. Nor did we want to sow or increase divisions within our ranks, or demoralize our fellow comrades.
In fact, there was very little we could write about. And, often, we would decide not to discuss much of what remained. So, we wrote from prison without writing much about prison. We were writing as if we were abstracted from our surroundings.
Before I arrived in Pretoria Local, I had been in Pretoria Maximum. And I remember very clearly how terrible it was there. But I could not say so in my letters. Nor did I want to alarm my family. I could not have told them about these conditions in any case, because the authorities would not have allowed such a letter to get out. They would have refused to post it, or would have told me to rewrite the letter.
In order to prevent the suppression or non-delivery of our letters, we also practiced self-censorship, or used a variety of contorted allusions that passed the censors but were sometimes very hard for our correspondents to decipher. We were desperate for information from the outside, but we had to solicit this news in innocent-sounding and indirect ways. It was only the most obscure references that escaped suspicion. And the more successful we were in fooling the censors, the more difficult i might be for our correspondents to follow our meaning.
We were generally not allowed to write to those who might most easily have understood our oblique references. But it took years to get a decision from the authorities when we requested permission to write to someone new, particularly when the new person was not a close family member. And usually these requests were refused.[...]", quoted from pp. 73-74

Chapter 17
Letters from Detention, 1986-88
(pp. 139-185)

The following letters were written from Johannesburg prison in Diepkloof, where I was detained from August 1986 to July 1988. Initially, I was with four other political prisoners - The Rev. Francois Bill, Maurice Smithers, Father Peter Hortop and Tom Waspe - whose company I shared for about eight months of the approximate 27 months I was detained under provisions of the 1986 South African state of emergency.
About 18 months of my detention were spent in solitary confinement, during which time my main human contact was with the warders who guarded me. I also had some semi-legal contact with convicted prisoners, to which prison officials sometimes turned a blind eye.
The smuggled letters, all sent to Barbara Creecy (see previous chapter), were written on very thin paper and glued between the covers of a cardboard file, which was used to convey study material in and out of jail. The prison officals were so intent on checking for subversive matter in the study material that they overlooked the letters concealed within the covers.", quoted from pp.139

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