SOUTH AFRICAN PRISON SERVICE
(Alternative to National Service) (1991-1994+)
First I must say that time may have clouded some of my memories, so if I left out something or miss-placed something, please excuse me. Also excuse my vuil-taal (Bad language), but that is the way we talked and thought at that time.
I was called up in 1990 to do my compulsory military service at 5 SIA Ladysmith for the intake in January 1991. During 1990 the Prison Service did recruitment in our town in Springbok and they convinced me to join the Prison Service, because the pay was better with a better career path.
On 2 January 1991 I reported at Brandvlei Prison. The army also reminded me with a letter that I was excused from military service, but they also warned me that I was still their property if I did not serve my prescribed time in the Prison Service. I did not know what to expect and, as an 18 year old boy, I thought I was in for an easy time. All in all we were about fifty new recruits, three of them from Springbok. There were also some older guys who have finished their two years in the military who joined the service. After the farewells to our families we were all summoned to a big hall. There a Major gave us all a warm welcome and a speech and I thought these guys were really friendly. In front of the Hall they set up tables with admin clerks to register us for the Prison Service. We had to submit a medical certificate that we were fit for duty and completed forms. We also had to submit a testament.
We were still sitting around in the hall watching the guys register and talking amongst ourselves, when suddenly we were told to shut up and an officer introduced us to Staff Sergeant Stolls. More of him later.
The ranks in the services were as follows: Proof Warden, Warden, Staff Sergeant, Warrant Officer, Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lt. Colonel, Colonel, Brigadier, Major General, Lt. General, and General. In those days the Prison Service was still a military setup and all members were addressed by their ranks. Staff Sergeants were actually called Sergeants.
Still at the hall we were told that we would receive a month "Vooropleiding". Sergeant Stolls will be our instructor and we should obey him at all times. For the rest of the day we were shown our sink barracks, what a dump. We were told to clean the place and eat breakfast at seven at the members Mess.
VOOROPLEIDING: (Pre-Basic Training)
During Vooropleiding we received a few barrack inspections, but these were nothing compared to Basics. During the first week we were looppasmarsed to a shed and there every one received a set of browns with boots. I remember you had to do a lot of pushups and running around, skaapdra and all that kak if somebody made any complaint about the size of the clothes. All that fitted was the boots. For a month, a day usually started with a tree aan (Fall in), inspection of uniform, godsdiens (prayers)and then you were left over to the genade (mercy) of the sergeant. We were told we are Rowers, laer as keefkak (lower than Crayfish shit). Then we were drilled and told you sounded like a heard of koeie kakking on the pad (Cows shitting on the road). January in Brandvlei is summer and it was hell running, crawling and getting opvoks in those extreme heat waves.
At ten in the morning we looppasmarsed to the Tennis Club hall were we received theoretical training. We got lessons in handling Bandiet (Bandit) smuggling, escapes, self defense and Salueer en Eerbewys (Greetings and Salutations). We were also trained in using the Tonfa (baton). In those days the focus was on security. We were also taught the military ranks of the army, navy etc. We also covered gangsters, prison rules and regulations. It was a month of hell, sweat and rondfok and we were all glad when it was finished. I remember thinking that if Vooropleiding was so kak, how would basic than be. After the month some guys were send to work at the Medium B Prison and the others to the Maximum Prison. I was send to the maximum. We were told that we would go to Kroonstad for Basic Training in June. In the mean time we were allocated work in different sections in the Prison to get experience. I remember on day at the Clubhouse we were doing self defense training. The sergeant was inquiring if any of us had any fighting or self-defense experience. Remember the golden rule: never volunteer, never speak and never come last or first. Then this one guy we called him "Slow", he was in the navy and an old guy compared to us stood up and said he could wrestle. We called him "Slow", because he had his own notion of time and most of the time it seems if he was asleep. Now on the grass outside it was the Sergeant VS Slow, that day "Slow" kicked his ass and it was on that day that we found out that Slow was an ex western province wrestler. Slow later joined the horse patrol section on the Prison farm.
My first job in the Maximum was as security official in Section B of the prison. I remember asking one inmate his identification papers to check up. After checking a few ID cards I realized that I was working with the scum of the earth. I was surrounded by murderers, rapist, child molesters, gangsters and people who hated us. We used to patrol the courtyard walking in a circle only armed with a Tonfa to protect us. Those inmates had only one purpose on earth and that was to undermine the system. You had to be watchful, never talk to them and watch your fellow wardens back. We also had to do searching everyday and everywhere. Everything that could be use, to harm or kill, had to be removed and this included nails, bits or iron/steel scrap, tins, glass etc. How they smuggled these things will be another book on its own. At the Maximum was also the "Klipkampie" (Wire cages about 3 meter square) in each cage was placed an inmate with a few big rocks and a hammer, the cage was then locked. The inmates had to chisel these rocks into gravel. Many assaults of inmate on inmate occurred at the Klipkampie.
End of May a Prison bus transported us to Kroonstad. The ex-army guys did not go, because they know weapons handling etc. They would receive theoretical training at the prison. On the bus was just ons klompie groen rowers (us bunch of green newbies). The bus trip was uneventful and we all were wondering what lay in store for us. We arrived at 18h00 if I remember correctly at Kroonstad training College. Getting off the bus I saw a lot of sergeants standing in front of the admin office waiting for their prey. It was not long before all hell broke loose. We were scurrying to tree aan with our baggage. Some guys were running around with tasse and sake (Cases and bags), because they were to slow to tree aan. The June intake at Kroonstad college was 1000 new recruits. I think they had a secret course somewhere about how to torture rowers with tasse and baggage. At last they got us to attention, I remember the cold. They checked our names against a list and sorted us in to floors per companies. I was in F Company third floor. They sorted us in such a way that all the rowers who know each other or who came from the same prison were separated. You had to made friends from scratch. We then got something to eat and at about 21hoo we each received a blanket and a pillow, then we went to our rooms to sleep.
The next morning at 05h00 somebody growled "lig jou gat rower ". (Move your arse, Newbie Takhare, manne met hair styles, everybody got in line and then it was off to the barbers. I remember when I entered the barber office, there was an amazing heap of hair lying on the floor, and some poor buggers had to broom all these hair into a heap in a corner. The barbers were nors guys and were not allowed to speak to us. We were never allowed to walk you always had to looppasmars when in a group, or else run when you were alone. We looppasmars to breakfast, blou eieres (blue eggs), bloufieterjool koffie, rubberized viennas , sometimes mieliepap, twee snye brood (two slices of bread). Die kos was kak en (the food was shit, and ) we were always hungry. We also had to eat fast and after breakfast in the dining hall, we were usually told, we did not have any manners or some bloody accusation was made against us and we had to run. That sergeants’ could swear, many time you heard about how kak you were, you were nothing, they also liked to mention you sisters, mothers, fathers, compare you to pigs, insects, cunts, dicks and all the lovely slang only instructors could think off. Then after breakfast it was PT, the 2.4 op en af en rondfok. At about 10h00 we were introduced to the parade ground a holy place if ever there was one on this earth. The parade ground was the property of Head PTI Mr. Corrie. This infamous man had the rank of a warrant officer, with the exception he also carried two crossed swords as insignia under his WO rank. A lot of these instructors had broomstick moustaches and boy could they shout, you could hear them a mile away. Luckily for me I could drill well because in school we had to do Cadets. But some poor buggers did not know their left from their right. These buggers made us all suffer. We had to do drills over and over again. "Sien jy daai boom, pluk daai blaar"(see that tree fokking up fauna an flora’s property and were then often opfoked. Unfortunately for our squad there was also a fat fuck as the instructors called him in our squad. Man that guy made us suffer. When we ran, we usually had to drag him along, because we were not allowed to leave our "maatjie" (buddy) behind. Later before the end of basics they fired the bloke he could never keep up and the ouens het hom een aand gemoer, (the guys beat him up one night) because he just did not get it. We had to act in a group and had to get the gees(spirit), he just could not do it.
At the college there was also "Die Speelparkie"(The Playpark.). A place with obstacles, ropes, mud holes, poles, tyres en allerhande op en afklim kak (all sorts of climbing up and down shit.). A real torture chamber if ever there was one. You had to run through the whole obstacle course in a certain time and usually we were to kak and had to get opfoked. Pole PT was also on the menu, I am a tall guy and we tall guys got all the wind van voor (burden) when it came to Pole PT. Also the famous leopard crawl was applied to us.
Also in the first week we received our Kit. We all looppas to the Magasyn (Magazine/arsenal) and there we got in line. In the magasyn they measured you, then you stood in the middle of a circle of mad sergeants, with a WO in charge and clothing would be thrown at you and you had to catch these. After the issue everything was again checked, you had to sign and with a ball of Kit you were chased away to go and store these items in your room. Kit consisted of two sets of browns, stepouts, twee pette, (two berets) twee laphoede, (two bush hats) PT clothes, one sweetpak, (track suit) pair of boots and shoes, webbelt, moerse klomp (a lot of) buttons, gym tekkies (trainers), sokkies (socks), oorjas (overcoat), bosbaadjies (bush jackets) x2, whistle cord and lots of swearing. The first week we all organized to get gyppo naate (seams) . We still had to swap clothes because their notion of size was not very accurate.
I must also mention the inspections. From Monday until Thursday every morning before breakfast that was at six we had inspections by our sergeant or a sergeant of our rooms. I cannot remember how many rooms there was per floor but if I must skat (estimate) I think there was about twenty and each room had two rowers. Fridays it was BO (Commanding Officer) inspection and a colonel with officers did this inspection. BO inspection actually means that you were to be inspected by "God". In the room were two beds, you had to square them. Polish the floors, clean the walls etc. In the room you had your own clothing cabinet and everything had to be clean, ironed and stashed in a certain order. One morning a crazy instructor did the inspection of our floor. We all stood at attention next to our beds. The sergeant would check the beds, floors, walls, windows and everything. He was checking my boots in the cabinet, when next he shouted at me "swot jy fokken landbou rower?"(Are you fucking studying agriculture?), he had discovered a grain of sand in the bottom of my klerekas (Clothes cupboard). "Maag af sak vir 50 rower" (Stomach down kussing opfoks (Cushion punishment PT), did many pushups and when he was in a really bad mood, we had to tree aan and then he ran the kak out of us. Some mornings at 4am we also did some rolling in the ryp(frost) of cold Kroonstad. We also had to clean the whole floor, toilets, washing room , the gang, trappe (steps) and a moerse klomp (helofalot of) windows. Nobody was allowed to move without Taxi’s on our floors. For the first two, three months they were never satisfied with our neatness, but later it got easier to pass. I remember one incident very clearly. We also had lockers in a room where we could stash our private stuff, but these lockers also had to be kept neat. One day the sergeant of the second floor of F-Company got really mad. Wie sal dan ooit vir ou Jonas vergeet. (Who would ever forget old Jonas?) One of my friends from Springbok was on this second floor and he had some clothing of his stashed away in my locker. This day our sergeant checked these lockers and found this friend of mine’s clothes in my locker. All the clothes were marked, so I could not argue. My weekend off was immediately taken away. Luckily that’s all punishment I received. The next moment our sergeant got really mad, you could hear him from a mile away. "Wie is die doos, gaan haal hom" (Who is this cunt? Go and get him.) Off I went to second floor to fetch the culprit. That day Steven did receive a lelike oppie (ugly punishment PT). Sergeant Jonas made him looppas with a hanger hanging from his mouth op en af (up and down) on the tar road next to our barracks. He was told how vuil (dirty) he was etc. On third floor I looked down on this oppie and really felt for the man.
The first month was pure hell, PT and rondfok and drill. A day ended at about 17h00 but it could go on longer if you were involved in an opfok. Supper was served at 18h00 if I remember correctly. After that you go to your room, do washing, cleaning, ironing and at ten it was ligte uit, stilte tyd, slaap (lights out, quiet time, sleep) en get up at 4am and prepare for inspection. We also had to do guard duty at the college entrance. "Ja passop vir die fokken (Yes, beware of fucking) communists."
One day we were told to attend class these classes followed every day for one hour before lunch and one hour after lunch. In these classes we did the B-Order, wette en regulasie (rules and regulations), Salueer en Eerbewys, first aid, radio com etc. We also were tortured on a regularly basis in the gym. We did self defense, again got training in the Tonfa and baton. Other days we draw weapons, were taught in the R1 rifle, 9mm, shotgun, gas and riot stuff. We had to clean these weapons, took them apart, put them together all in a certain time. If you jaag kak aan (looked for shit) we leopard crawled with these R1’s, did a few kots (puke) rolls. It was great fun for the instructors to throw us with gas grenades, hoes, nies (cough, splutter Seker bang ons sal kak maak in die dorp. (Surely scared we would make shit in the town.) I remember you had to sign each weapon out when you got training or went to the shooting range. One day in class, we were dead tired and struggling to keep awake and the sergeant called me the "Voorsitter van die werf-etters" he explained it as follows: "ek is etter op die werf wat die henne se eiers steel ’s naai"(spunk that would steak a chickens eggs, break in and shag the embryos). Well what followed was another oppie.
The shooting range for the rifles was approximately 15 -20 km outside op Kroonstad. When we went to shoot on the range, we were transported in a bus. Winter in Kroonstad in not fun and it was freezing cold on the range and we usually started on the range just after breakfast. This one day we were going to shoot with the R1 or FN and we did a lot of "weapons drill, orders etc". We were laid down at different ranges on the range and some guys were rotated in the "teiken gat"(The butts, trench behind the targets), when you shoot they pointed on the target where the bullet penetrated with a pointer. Those rowers in the gat including us did many runs up and down the skietwal. Some instructors were very aspris and some guys did not check the gas settings of the rifle and these unlucky ones had many bruised shoulders. Other guys got gun crazy and did not concentrate on the "vuur-bevele"(Fire instructions). They were chased around on the range with an ammo-kis (box). When the shooting ended, we all tree-aan and had to declare etc. We had to account for all used cartridges and hand them in. No matter what, there were always an instructor finding a cartridge that was not accounted for and then we got another oppie. One day at the range our group finally got it right according to the instructors. We declared and found it very comforting that the sergeants were so friendly. There arrived another bakkie or two, they dropped off some wood and we all got some cool drink and were braaing some vleis and wors. Te mooi vir woorde (Too beautiful for words.). After the braai, just as we thought that we were going to board the bus for the trip back to the college it was maag af rug om. It was not long before some of the braaivleis were again returned to mother earth. One sergeant discovered to his dismay that one empty cartridges was not accounted for. The bus took off without us. The first twenty then who was first at the halfway point got on the bus and taken to the college. That day I was number 20. The rest had to run all the way back. After this incident, we did not trust them any more.
At the college we also wrote exams and you had to pass. One day in the class, we were doing the B-Order (Prison admin etc.), the sergeant ask the following question to a rower. It went something like this. "Rower Piet, wat is ‘n parool?". Piet immediately stood up got on attention and answered as follow: "Sersant, ‘n parool is ‘n parool wat op parool kan gaan" (A parole is a parole that can go on parole). Piet was immediately told how stupid he was and how he did not concentrate, his sisters were also dragged into the conversation and we all had to go for a few pushups just to get us refreshed to listen in class. Some incidents were really humorous and sometimes you just could not help and had to laugh. For the first month we did not laugh, but after that laughing was sometimes tolerated.
Well after three months we finally did everything as a team. We were fit and the PT, oppies and rondfok did not affect us anymore. When the instructor told us to run the 2.4 we actually did it a few times more by ourselves just to show we can do it. The last month was not bad, inspections were not so tough anymore, and we had more free time. On every second weekend we had to work at Kroonstad Prison. On the off weekend they guys near Kroonstad went home, ons klomp Kapenare (we from the Cape Province) had to stay at the college, it was too far to drive for two days. Some guys actually took chances and some were lost on road accidents. If you also jaag kak aan your off weekend was scrapped. To say something about the food ’ how we were going to moer (beat up)the cooks, after that the food improved a little. Gyppo-guts were a real problem and we all suffered from it. A few cooks actually had to duck flying food.
The last month we exercise for the final parade. This we did with our tunics, R1, nice white gloves and a small oranje blanje blou vlaggie (Orange, White and Blue flag orkes (orchestra) played for us and we oefened (practised) really hard. There were also a small ponie (horse) who had the insignia of a sergeant. We all had to strek (brace) the ponie and show the necessary respect. We were told that at one time the ponie was a WO but was demoted because he kakked (shat) on a parade in front of a V.I.P. Minister.
At our last parade Minister Vlok attended and some important Brass. We got a speech about wet and orde (Law and order), the shit going on in the land, our duty etc. Some guys passed out on this parade and we were not allowed to help them, they fell like vrot velle. Everybody gathered at the gym, there we were told where we would be stationed. I was send back to Brandvlei, we all received a bus or train ticket. A group of us travelled with the Translux to Worcester. We had to wear tunic when on this bus. We smuggled some alcohol on the bus and it was not long before we got pissed. On the way the bus picked up some navy guys, army etc and it was not long before a competition aroused about which service could drink the most. The few siwwies (Civvies) on the bus quietly got off along the way. The conductor/ driver did not dare to intervene. The bus dropped us off in front of the Cumberland Hotel in Worcester and there we had to wait for the Prison bus to pick us up. To leave a lot of young fit guys in front of a hotel with a nice pub was not very good thing to do and we arrived pissed at our quarters in Brandvlei.
-- Gerhard van Huyssteen
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