This extraordinary account of imprisonment shows the injustices of the system. Sylvia Neame, activist against apartheid and racism, by profession an historian (see the 3-volume, The Congress Movement, HSRC Press,2015), has not written a typical political memoir. It is a highly personal account, written in an original style. At the same time, it casts a particularly sharp light on the unfolding of a security police-dominated apartheid system in the decade of the 1960s.
Th author incorporates some of her experiences in prisons and police stations around the country, including the fabricated trial she faced while imprisoned in Port Elizabeth, one of the many such trials which took place in the eastern Cape. But her focus is on Barberton Prison. Here she was imprisoned together with a small number of other white women political prisoners, most of whom had stood trial and been sentenced in Johannesburg in 1964-5 for membership of an illegal organisation, the Communist Party. It is a little known story. Not even the Progressive Party MP, Helen Suzman, found her way here.
Barberton Prison, a maximum security prison, part of a farm gaol complex in the easternpart of what was then known as the Transvaal province, was far from any urban centre. The women were kept in a small space at one end of the prison in extreme isolation, under a regime of what can only be called psychological warfare. A key concern for the author were the mental and psychological symptoms which emerged in the response of herself and her fellow prisoners and the steps they took to maintain their sanity..........