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LINDELA (The Winnie Suite)

By Dominique Malaquais
Photograph by Buyaphi Mdledle

trespassers will be shot. survivors will be shot again

I.

listen, now. prisons are nothing new to me. not that i’ve done time – no. but i’ve been to see. walked through penitentiaries. past tiers and rows and bars, the stench of men howling silence. past men kneeling, palms beaten to pulp, legs mid-thigh in mud thicker than your words. and, yes, as always, i’ve read – more than most. on this place and that place. where you come from and i come from. on killing fields you, even, had forgotten

there are places worse than this, yes. still, i didn’t get in. i saw nothing: this you need to know

day trips. krugersdorp. 4 of the big 5, say they; all but the lion, an afternoon’s excursion

car, maps, time. passports. visas. the king’s m-o-t-h-e-r-f-u-c-k-i-n-g english. we have all of it. and still we don’t find anything

for miles, not a sign

you could go for hours, circling, on this brown plain. looking. looking. and see nothing

lindela. rimes with mandela. in tswana. lingala. lindela? have you seen lindela? where the mozambicans are. the qat-dead eyes of a man (somali? eritrean?) trailing a finger through my hair

lindela

a man on a bicycle, boer face lined, throat cluttered, tells us the way. flegm. dust

men, women, wait. you’ve seen it before: waiting for nothing, waiting to wait. necks slack. hands/skin/guts dry. cold. no one here is from here. sudan. chad. seeking home, finding shit. children who will forget their names

i have been here a week. it doesn’t take long to hear the stories. 200 rand to get out if you’re zimbabwean. mozambique, 300. congo, cameroon:  more. cost rises with distance and the thickness of vowels

a boxer i meet spends 3 weeks. 2500. 5 months’ rent. beatings. blankets, a man tells me in berea, blankets a madman would know better than use

lindela is for mandela. madikizela-mandela

the women’s league sees to this camp. and others

my friend, sweet friend, you’ll be wanting a statue of liberty: mama come, deliver me your weary, your downtrodden. i have scarves. razor wire scarves. for necks slender with the walk from there to here

mali. burkina. kin kin kin

II.

welcome to the future

bososa means ‘the future.’ so tells me lindie, who welcomes me. welcome to the future, says lindie

food, telephone, security. bososa runs lindela for mrs. mandela. lindie runs p.r. for bososa. lindie lindie whose surname i never learn

all queries shall be directed to home affairs. bososa, full-service provida, sub-contracts; strict orders obtain:  no reporters, no researchers. no. neva

lindie sells me lindela. sells me bososa. sweeps bodies into corners – two of late, beaten dead if memory serves

wssd. bososa is there. lovely lindie at a booth in ubuntu village. sustainable encampment

as zuidafrika goes the way of norteamerika prisons go private. jailbuilding: bushland’s growth; now thisland’s growth

bososa will be in the lead, lindie says

bikos, bikos lindela

III.

welcome to the rainbow nation:  we care for our human gems (de beers)

when he first came, he was put in a camp that had been an asylum. a few patients remained. urinestained; forgotten, he supposes. guards had trouble telling the immigrants from the insane. one kwerekwere from another

tonguing, tonguing

you didn’t know this. or did; i don’t know anymore. you took me to a place that had housed madmen. we drove for miles. up a flight of stairs, bass beats, sleazythick, and ganja. smoke so fat i lost your face. outside, i remember chairs. lawn furniture, chipstripped. we sat. a white horse – huge, filthy – walked to us

you wrapped a scarf. tight. around my neck

lindela was a nuthouse too. first. i might have been there. or you. one body for another. or not i called winnie to ask: what the fuck? she wasn’t in. lindie says she doesn’t know


This piece features in the Chimurenga Magazine 03: Biko in Parliament (November 2002). To purchase as a PDF head to our online shop.

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