THE JAIL DIARY OF ALBIE SACHS by Albie Sachs

Albie Sachs spent 168 days in solitary confinement in South Africa under the Ninety Days Law. That law stated a person could be arrested in 90 day increments without a court date if they were suspected to have anti-government information. Sachs was anti-apartheid and a lawyer, and one day he was randomly arrested in his office, which was turned upside down to find things like reading materials that have been banned since their publication. He was interrogated regularly during his time in jail and though his treatment was very humane compared to others in his predicament, he never folded. Never said a word. His repeated line was, “I’m not prepared to answer questions.”

It was odd for him to have these conversations too because he actually appreciated any human contact. He was mad lonely. Early on, he notices a couple other imprisoned people going in and out of nearby cells so he whistles songs at a certain time and they whistle back. It’s very intimate. Later, however, in another facility, he hears a cop whistling and he stops altogether. That’s the kind of attempts at solidarity he encounters–adding to the drawings on the walls, advocating for other people to get more food, arguing for books and writing materials. Sachs also considers the structure of a seat to be invaluable. In his first cell, he only gets a pile of flea-infested blankets. It’s then that he realizes the chair is one of the most important human inventions ever–something that gets you off the floor. Thus, his day-to-day was all about fighting to remain human, even if only intellectually.

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