Thursday, 7 September 2006

Redemption beckons from depths of this hell

The Choice: The Gayton McKenzie Story is one man’s journey from petty crime to big-time vice and, ultimately, to salvation. In the second and last instalment of the series, Gayton McKenzie witnesses a prison rape that will change his life.

PUNISHMENT: The boy whose rape Gayton McKenzie witnessed should never have been in the cell where he was attacked. But in prisons like this, ‘the warders take care of that; they know what to do to keep the prisoners happy’, says McKenzie Picture: KATHERINE MUICK-MERE.

03 September 2006

‘He tries to fight, so they hit him. His resistance stops abruptly when one grabs the back of his head and smashes his face into the steel bars’

A few days later, Wimpie, a white boy who was dabbling with dagga, is put in our cell. I don’t know how old he really is, perhaps 16 or more, but he looks no older than 14, with skinny arms and short, spiky-crowned, brown hair.

The 28 gang give him a chocolate bar in the morning and it’s obvious what his eating of it preludes. Still, it is strange how even the minds of paedophilic rapists seem to demand some sort of mechanism by which they can excuse their crimes. They’ve given him a chocolate bar and they are going to enjoy having him repay the kindness.

WITNESS: The ‘racist hate’ in Gayton McKenzie’s heart seems cheap, he says, in the face of one boy’s unbearable suffering.

It isn’t meant for Wimpie to be spending the evening in a cell full of libido-possessed 28s, but the warders took care of that. They know what to do to keep the prisoners happy.

The night it happens, I am in a cell with 80 men. What I am about to witness will make ridiculous the notion that someone can be safer in a crowd.

Three-quarters of the men do not want to be part of this, or they are excluded. The other 20, they know one another, and begin the sick game with the boy. He is cocky and tells them to leave him alone.

“What are you doing?”

He tries to fight, and so they hit him. His resistance stops abruptly when one grabs the back of his head and smashes his face into the steel bars ...

The boy has been in prison for weeks now, but this is his first moment of true captivity.

The 20 take it in turns to rape him. It goes on for more than eight hours, almost the whole night. The boy does everything he can, in his pathetic, limited range of action, to try to deter them, but he is ignored. He screams, he cries, he begs, he tries to bargain, he prays.

He is ignored ...

As far as the 28s are concerned, the boy means nothing, and is nothing. He is their clay, to reshape as they please. As a prison “soldier”, as a “man”, this is what you do: you “create” women out of boys, and in that moment in the dark you are a god. But it is impossible to look upon what they have “made” and think to call it good. Their act of creation is nothing but annihilation. You do not create a woman by destroying a nascent man.

There are curtains separating the rapists and Wimpie from the rest of the cell, not that this achieves much — the screams cannot be hidden; not everyone, though — those not members of the 28 gang — can get away with going to look at what is going on, or will dare to risk it. I can, though, I can do anything I like.

If I want to, I could stop them with a word.

Instead, the screams go on all night. Now that it has started, and I have done nothing, it becomes a matter of merely waiting, and hoping that it will end. But it doesn’t. It’s still going on.

In my mind, I switch off. I’ve seen it all before. The man who has not been in prison for very long would have to break his fingers off in his ears to escape the horrific screams, but a man like me can simply wait, as long as he needs to, for the sun to rise, and for this night of cruelty to be over.

One does not interfere with another gang, and though I fought the Air Force, that was different, I tell myself.

Still it goes on. All night, I endure the sound, though what the screams are like by the end of it would challenge anyone’s imagination.

You cannot help but admit, however grudgingly, that the 28s are all too human, and human beings through all of this, but would they say the same of you? They would not. You are their clay ...

It is in the morning, though, that I am forced to see what life has coughed up before me. What’s left of Wimpie is lying in a corridor between the bunks, just in front of my bed. He is still naked, shivering in a pool of his own blood where they have discarded him. I will literally have to step over the small body to go and eat my breakfast. I am about to do just that, too, when I look him in the eyes.

All of the racist hate and hardness of my heart seems cheap. Is it important where a victim is born, where he went to school, whether or not his ethnicity gave him advantages denied others, or whether or not he is white or black?

In suffering, we are all the same.

How can I step over this cosmically battered body, and sit down to breakfast? How can anyone?

Right there, in that dismal space, with other men’s clothing strewn about on rusting beds, beside bars with psoriatic, peeling paint, I am alone with this boy’s pain.

I no longer know how I can continue to live. I have no more answers, and I am tired of all the old questions too.

The Choice: The Gayton McKenzie Story (as told to Charles Cilliers) is published by Global Creative Studios and sells for R150

Source: Sunday Times

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