Prison Life 1970 – 1975

Differences between B (Coloureds) and C (Bantu) diets at the prison.

Conditions regressed again under Colonel Badenhorst, a commanding officer in charge of the Island between 1970 and 1972.

The general and single cell sections of the Maximum Security Prison were designed to separate prisoners and prevent contact between them. The prisoners held in the single cells had far less contact with their fellow prisoners and were locked in their cells for considerably longer hours.

The food given to prisoners was generally insufficient in quantity and of poor quality. Additionally prisoners of different races were given different food. White prisoners were fed 4 ounces of mielie meal or mielie rice and 7 ounces of fish or meat per day. Coloured and Indian prisoners were given 14 ounces of mielie meal and mielie rice per day and six ounces of meat or fish four times a week. African prisoners were given 12 ounces of mielie meal and mielie rice per day and only 5 ounces of meat or fish four times a week. Warders often punished prisoners by withdrawing their meal ‘tickets’ which meant they had to go hungry on those days.

On a daily basis, prisoners had to strip and jump around to dislodge any concealed object on or in their bodies. They would have to end this “dance” called the “tauza” by bending over naked and exposing their rectums to the warders. Most of the brutality and physical abuse that prisoners experienced were associated with hard labour. Most prisoners worked in the quarries, quarrying lime and stone, chopping wood, crushing stone, making or repairing roads with picks and shovels, dragging seaweed from the beaches and the sea. It was common practise for the warders to beat the prisoners while they worked. The most often cited example of abuse suffered by prisoners is that of Johnson Mlambo who was buried in sand up to his neck, urinated on by a warder and then hit with fists and boots.

'H' block general cell, Robben Island prison.

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