117 Days: An Account of Confinement and Interrogation Under the South African 90-Day Detention Law

117 Days: An Account of Confinement and Interrogation Under the South African 90-Day Detention Law Author Ruth First Angela Y. Davis are Kindle Ruth First was a South African politician, scholar, reporter and anti apartheid activist.. An unforgettable account of defiance against political terror by one of South Africa s pioneering anti apartheid activistsAn invaluable testimonial to the excesses of the apartheid system, 117 Days presents the harrowing chronicle of journalist Ruth First s isolation and abuse at the hands of South African interrogators after her arrest in 1963 Upon her arrest, she was deAn unforgettable account of defiance against political terror by one of South Africa s pioneering anti apartheid activistsAn invaluable testimonial to the excesses of the apartheid system, 117 Days presents the harrowing chronicle of journalist Ruth First s isolation and abuse at the hands of South African interrogators after her arrest in 1963 Upon her arrest, she was detained in solitary confinement under South Africa s notorious ninety day detention law This is the story of the war of nerves that ensued between First and her Special Branch captors a work that remains a classic portrait of oppression and the dignity of the human spirit.. Popular Book 117 Days: An Account of Confinement and Interrogation Under the South African 90-Day Detention Law Introduction: I’m not exactly one hundred percent ignorant about South Africa’s history of apartheid—although to say that “South Africa has a history of apartheid and Nelson Mandela was its president when they ended apartheid, or something” wouldn’t be an unfair summary of the whole of my knowledge about it. I have read Cry, the Beloved Country, I saw that soccer movie with Matt Damon as well as the not-about-soccer one with Sophie Okonedo as Sandra Laing, and I even read Bishop Tutu’s book No Future Without Forgiveness, which talks a bit about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and his work with President Mandela. But apart from that extremely cursory (and primarily fictional?) gloss over South Africa’s apartheid, I’m essentially clueless about this piece of world history.So, naturally, I’m pretty excited to read First’s 117 Days, but I thought it might be wise to do some quick Googling about the author and the circumstances of her book. So here’s what I found, in a nutshell.Ruth First was the daughter of Latvian Jewish immigrants to South Africa, who were founding members of the Communist Party of South Africa, and she was born in Johannesburg in 1925. She was the first member of her family to attend university, which she did at University of the Witwatersrand, getting to know fellow activist students including Nelson Mandela. The University now holds a memorial lecture in her honor every year. Ruth First joined the Communist party, worked in the Social Welfare Division in Johannesburg, and worked as an editor on a couple of different radical/liberal publications.Of course, she was also an anti-apartheid activist, and was the first white woman to be arrested and detained under the Ninety Day Detention Law. She was a defendant in the Treason Trial (her friend Mandela was also a defendant in this trial, as was her husband, Joseph Slovo, who was also one of the defense lawyers), and was finally exiled from South Africa in 1964, going first to England and finally to Mozambique, where in 1982 she was assassinated by a letter bomb ordered by a major in the South African Police. That assassin, by the way, was granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.117 Days: An Account of Confinement and Interrogation Under The South African 90-Day Detention Law is, of course, First’s memoir of her arrest and detainment due to her anti-apartheid activism in South Africa.The rest of this review contains spoilers. (view spoiler)[-----The CellChapter 1 of 117 Days describes First’s arrest and initial adjustment—if there is such a thing as adjustment in this case—to prison life. And not just prison life, but solitary confinement. In a cell she measured as roughly eight by six, not even large enough to pace without hitting the bed, a bed three short paces from the door that is not a door, a window that, as First puts it, was “a closing, not an opening,” Ruth First acquainted herself with prison life in what would surely be a long haul. After all, she already knew she was there under the 90-Days’ Detention law, and that there was a strong likelihood that the policemen who raided her home had found banned printed materials—copies of the newspaper she herself had edited. In short, First was left in this cell to worry herself to death, to plan a calculated defensive interrogation in order to learn as much as possible from as little human contact as she would be allowed.And human contact was a big deal, make no mistake. First writes of fighting a Kafkaesque transformation, saying that she “changed from a mainly vertical to a mainly horizontal creature,” and speaking of her fear that she would “become one of those colourless insects that slither under a world of flat, grey stones, away from the sky and sunlight, the grass and people.” People. Human connection was the key here, and her jailers knew it. Part of her weapons against this insectoid transformation include the scrawled memori mes on the wall from prisoners past, and First deftly ties her own experiences together in narrative form with the experiences of other prisoners she was later able to record.“I was finding the shelves [of her library science education] poor substitutes for the people… that had made up our newspaper life,” First writes of even the period directly before her arrest. Even in this time before her imprisonment, First was experiencing at the hands of the South African government, by means of censorship and blacklisting, a different form of solitary confinement. In many ways, her mind was already preparing for this period of isolation; indeed, had already begun experiencing it.There are sharp tiny shafts of light in this darkness. A prison warden allows her the suitcase she packed, including medication necessary for a thyroid condition and such humanizing elements as her own pajamas, a set of tweezers, clean underwear, a mirror. And once, when another prisoner is brought in, she hears the voice of a family friend calling for menstrual necessities, and is able to call to her friend, recognizing her voice, that she has them, with her, in her suitcase.In this system of government and imprisonment, even the police are under scrutiny; in fact, in an italicized passage of another prisoner’s daring escape, we witness a white policeman who aids this escape caught, tried, sentenced, and left to rot in the prison he used to run: a six year sentence.One can’t, I think, help but compare this apartheid narrative to our own culture today, in which young black children are shot for being “suspicious,” in which our own Supreme Court determines that the Voters Rights Act is no longer necessary—the same act that has long protected disenfranchised populations in their efforts to be heard politically, and in which we imprison international citizen for belonging to the wrong religion or having too “extreme” opinions, without crime, court, or care for their human rights. One can’t help but think of Abu Ghraib, of Guantanamo, of our entire prison system here in the United States. One can’t help but think of our perpetual state of inequity, and wonder at how we’ve come so far and yet have so far to go.---On Living in a Police Station“Isolation and privacy,” First writes. “Not the same thing by any means. I was isolated, but utterly dependent on outsiders—my jailers, my enemies. I had to shout or bang on the door when I wanted to use the lavatory. The wardress stood by while I washed. The daily programme, whatever I pretended, was not mine but theirs.”After the breakout described in chapter 1, First watches as the warders and wardresses increase security in the jail, but only in the most ridiculous ways possible. Each prison cell door is fitted with an extra key, of which there is only one copy, all in the possession of one new jailer. Imagine the work that is cut out for this self-important buffoon every time a prisoner has to use the toilet! Not to mention, being a keeper of keys seemed to be one of the main things that established the wardresses as an authority in this place, and now having to wait for this other person to unlock any cell door manages to directly undermine their authority before the prisoners.But First notices, too, that the apartheid racism extends even to the treatment of different prisoners in the police station: “I, a prisoner held under top security conditions, was forbidden books, visitors, contact with any other prisoner; but like any white South African Madam I sat in bed each morning and Africans did the cleaning for the ‘missus’.”In another italicized section, First goes on to describe something that (in retrospect) chillingly foreshadows her own assassination by illustrating the horrifying reach and influence internationally of the South African government, when an anti-apartheid activist traveling with a Rhodesian passport between Swaziland and Mozambique was without warning handed over to the South African government, whose officials shot him when he attempted to escape.After some time passes, First has her very first interrogation. She has been rehearsing for it for ages, and feels moderately competent until they surprise her with a question: what was she doing at Rivonia? She is flustered, certainly, but now she knows something: the Security Police know of her involvement at Rivonia. At the end of the chapter, she is moved to Pretoria, to what a police inspector tells her will be a “more permanent home” for her. She will be charged.---Over the remainder of First’s 90-day detention, she is moved to a separate prison (seemingly for the purpose of isolating and confusing her), moved back to the original prison, and subjected to intense interrogation. Narratives of the torture and murders or suicides of several of her fellow anti-apartheid activists trickle through this holding pattern.She is released on the 90th day, allowed to get as far as a pay phone to call for a ride, and then arrested again and walked right back to her cell. She gives a (mostly useless) statement to the Security Branch police,and is so overcome by despair and anguish that she swallows a number of sleeping pills. She survives, and upon her recovery she realizes that she has, in many ways, already won: she hasn’t given them anything they can use against her or anyone else, and finally, late in her time there, she starts earning privileges: first crossword puzzles, then books. Real books.Obviously, I’ve never been in solitary confinement. But when I try to imagine what it’s like, I think of days when I was unemployed and stuck, due to limited finances, at home, looking for a job and never hearing back from anyone, excited even when the mailman delivered bills for the brief touch of human contact. And I know that cabin fever didn’t manage to eat me up—mentally—only because I had access to nearly limitless books. I try to imagine the kind of stress First was under, minus human comfort, minus the freedom to stretch my legs to work it out, and minus—above all—minus the distraction, illumination, companionship, and mental space afforded by books. And I just can’t wrap my head around it. It sounds too horrible to endure.First’s release makes little to no sense, and she is left with a haunting sense of paranoia that, as history would reveal, was rather justified. (hide spoiler)]I reviewed this book over at my blog, A Penguin Class as well.
Days An Account of Confinement and Interrogation An invaluable testimonial to the excesses of the apartheid system, Days presents the harrowing chronicle of journalist Ruth First s isolation and abuse at the hands of South African interrogators after her arrest in Upon her arrest, she was de An unforgettable account of defiance against political terror by one of South Africa s pioneering anti apartheid activists. Days An Account of Confinement and Interrogation May , An invaluable testimonial of the excesses of the apartheid system, Days presents the harrowing chronicle of journalist Ruth First s isolation and abuse at the hands of South African interrogators after her arrest in Upon her arrest, she was detained in solitary confinement under South Africa s notorious ninety day detention law. Days by Ruth First PenguinRandomHouse An unforgettable account of defiance against political terror by one of South Africa s pioneering anti apartheid activists An invaluable testimonial of the excesses of the apartheid system, Days presents the harrowing chronicle of journalist Ruth First s isolation and abuse at the hands of South African interrogators after her arrest in Upon her arrest, she was detained in solitary confinement under South Africa s notorious ninety day Days Days is the firsthand account of nineteen year old draftee, PFC Mike Hardy, as he fought on the front lines of Vietnam in Decades after the war, Mike sat down with his eldest daughter, Marie, and recorded those experiences This book is the written memory of the lifetime that occurred during the days Mike served in Vietnam. Sharon Tapp, who spent days in the hospital with Covid Aug , Nurse who spent days in the hospital with Covid says it feels great to be alive By Theresa Waldrop, CNN Updated PM ET, Tue August , Sharon Tapp still has a From the Archive Days New Frame As an anti apartheid activist, Ruth First, who was married to long time leader of the South African Communist Party Joe Slovo, was a defendent in the Treason Trials of to In , agents of the apartheid government caught and imprisoned her She was held in isolation without charge for days under the day detention law. days an account of confinement and interrogation days an account of confinement and interrogation under the South African day detention law Days Adrift in a Liferaft FULL STORY In the dawn of th March, some miles from the Galapagos, a Sperm Whale crashed into the hull of the boat and the outcome was that it sank From that moment on this couple would face frenetic days in a small lifesaving raft tied to a small inflatable lifeboat which Maurice and Maralyn Bailey days adrift Their survival story is known as Days Adrift despite the duration actually being longer because initial news reports were wrong and it was decided to keep this name for consistency. The Baileys journey began when they left Southampton, England, in their foot . m yacht Auralyn Their intended destination was New Zealand.They passed safely through the Panama Canal Convert Days to Hours CalculateMe Days , Hours exact result Display result asNumberFraction exact value A dayis the approximate time it takes for the Earth to complete one rotation It is defined as exactly , seconds An houris a unit of time equal to minutes, or , seconds.

  1. Ruth First was a South African politician, scholar, reporter and anti apartheid activist.

979 Reply to “117 Days: An Account of Confinement and Interrogation Under the South African 90-Day Detention Law”

  1. Introduction I m not exactly one hundred percent ignorant about South Africa s history of apartheid although to say that South Africa has a history of apartheid and Nelson Mandela was its president when they ended apartheid, or something wouldn t be an unfair summary of the whole of my knowledge about it I have read Cry, the Beloved Country, I saw that soccer movie with Matt Damon as well as the not about soccer one with Sophie Okonedo as Sandra Laing, and I even read Bishop Tutu s book No Futur [...]


  2. This was certainly an eye opening book and it is frightening to imagine living in that sort of political climate That you could be arrested without reason, no one in your family notified, and held in isolation indefinitely, it s a very upsetting thought I applaud First for being able to not only survive her ordeal, but to write about it as well The only thing I did not like about the novel was that there seemed to be an assumption that I understood everything that was going on at the time and wh [...]


  3. Absolutely chilling A riveting account of Ruth First s experience as a solitary confinement prisoner Incarcerated under a ninety day detention law solely at the discretion of the South African Security Branch, she is never charged and in fact re arrested at the end of her term Practically speaking the 90 day term could be indefinitely extended.This personal account is brutally honest and frank Eye opening as it deals with a Security Branch which has at this point fine tuned it s mental and physi [...]


  4. This is an incredible view into apartheid very highly recommended It is an intense read, particularly given the horrific conclusion to Ruth First s life see A World Apart , the film written by her daughter Quite an up close and personal view of the impressive willpower of the anti apartheid movement.





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