Give our prisoners a break

Andrew Donaldson says it is the criminals not behind bars whom we should be worrying about

PERHAPS it’s just me, but it appears as if standards in the gentlemen’s entertainment business have fallen somewhat since the murder of Lolly Jackson, the strip club boss.

Jackson ran a tight ship. Those women who escaped his clutches, for he really was a human trafficker and did keep them prisoner, spoke of paying thousands of rands in fines for such minor transgression as cutting fingernails too short, putting on weight or not having a proper G-string tan. 

It is not unreasonable, then, to suggest the “professional street dancers”, as they call themselves, who performed for inmates at the Johannesburg Correctional Centre as part of a Youth Month celebration may not have passed muster as far as Jackson was concerned, and perhaps we should leave it at that.

Photographs from this event have circulated on social media. In one, a dancer in a teddy and boots appears to be hugging an inmate. In another image, three similarly-dressed women appear to be strip-searching a prisoner (which is maybe not an unusual occurrence in a prison, you’d think.)

Some news reports described these images as “explicit”, which is stretching it a bit. There’s way more exposed flesh at the beach. Perhaps journalists really do need to get out a bit more and leave the phony hysteria to Bell Pottinger. 

What does however alarm us, here at the Mahogany Ridge, is the amount of bile and phlegm this incident has generated. 

The usual berserkers who provide talk radio with much of its content have been making outraged noises to the effect that criminals don’t deserve entertainment, are not in prison to enjoy themselves, don’t have rights and what have you.

It says much of their own prurience that, with just a glance at these pictures, upstanding South Africans have convinced themselves that something disgusting and depraved has taken place in that prison yard. 

This appears to be the view of acting National Correctional Services Commissioner James Smalberger, who has described this cock-eyed attempt at prisoner rehabilitation as unacceptable. Thirteen of his officials have been warned they face suspension.

“I want to give the assurance that, based on our briefing and our visit to the place where this happened, is that there is no taxpayer money involved in this ‘entertainment’,” Smalburger said.

Someone must have paid. These are professional street dancers. They don’t work for nothing. But never mind. The point is, the criminals they entertained are at least behind bars. Most of our criminals are not. 

One thinks immediately of the gang at the Saxonwold Shebeen. 

Pick a Gupta. Any one will do. Consider what an unusually cruel punishment it would be if he were in prison and a bunch of professional street dancers began poking around in his orange trousers to see what he may be hiding there.

But on to other matters. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has been criticised for referring to the 94 mentally ill patients who died earlier this year after government moved them from Life Esidemeni Health Care as “amageza”, or lunatics.

Mantashe has however insisted that he was poking fun at the situation in which the Gauteng Health MEC, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, found herself as a result of the deaths and not, in fact, the dead patients themselves.

This is not very convincing. Or even amusing. But, as he explained to Huffington Post, “politics is polluted, there is no space for fun”.

Oh, but there is. Especially if you take into account who is polluting politics.

Jacob Zuma, for example. He’s also had lunatics on the brain recently, and told the party’s KwaZulu-Natal provincial general council last weekend that EFF leader Julius Malema was a “crazy boy” and a “real mental case” who behaved like “an insane person armed with matches, threatening to burn a house down while still inside it”.

The President added, “He eventually left [the ANC] and is now crazier than ever. My God, houses are burning down.”

There was much laughter at that. But it was nowhere near as funny as Marius Fransman’s curiously deluded insistence that he is still the chairman of the ANC in the Western Cape. 

Fransman released a statement on Sunday in which he stated that this was indeed the case. He waffled on about being attacked by some party members because of his strong views on monopoly capital and he had uncovered a plot to sabotage the ANC from within.

It’s sad. Fransman is a cheap sex pest. His behaviour as such led to his five-year suspension from the ANC. That he refuses to acknowledge this indicates he is beyond therapy. Even from professional street dancers.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.