Inmate, checkmate

2012-03-22 21:24
Inmates at the Boksburg Prison believe that chess possesses a magic that helps them to spend their time on the inside of the high walls more constructively. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Inmates at the Boksburg Prison believe that chess possesses a magic that helps them to spend their time on the inside of the high walls more constructively. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - Two men sit on a bench, focused on the board between them. The man on the left, his head shaved, is lost in thought. Suddenly, he acts. A pawn is moved one square forward.

While his opponent, wearing a cap with a visor, considers his position, the bald man adjusts the sleeve of his orange overalls inscribed all over with the word "corrections".

The man in the cap wears exactly the same thing, as do all the men in front of the boards in this room.

On this Monday morning, bathed in Highveld sunshine, chess is the game, and Boksburg Prison, with a 4 000-strong population, is the place.

The inmates are marking the admission of the prison’s chess club to the Gauteng South Chess Association (GSCA).

It's an achievement for the prisoners in their search for ways to better themselves. For it to work, outside interaction is vital.

Molave Sivjamdane, 35, was jailed before the fall of apartheid for armed robbery and theft. He was introduced to chess in 2002.

"It has made a lot of change in my life. I have found myself in chess with a peace of mind, so I think chess is great," he says, with six months to go until his release.

"I think what matters most, I think I should find a job for myself, to do something, to better my life."

The wheels began turning last year, when the GSCA was contacted via the warders at the prison on the East Rand.

"We are probably the only union within South Africa that have prisoners as part of our union; as part of a club. We are excited about it. It's an amazing feeling for us. It says that everybody can play chess," says GSCA president Gerri Engelman.

She hands boards, clocks and chess sets to the prison club's chairperson, Bright Mpadi, who, in thanking her, explains just how important the day is for inmates who pursue the ancient pastime.

Inmates crowd around GSCA coach Daniel Cawdery as he begins a lesson. Others play games.

Cawdery is expected to visit far more often as the year goes by.

Rejection

"I think the great thing is, just talking to some of them, was that they want to make a change in their community and I think that would be our ultimate purpose," says Engelman.

"To make sure that when they leave the prison, they come outside and we, as a chess union, can go into their communities and also provide assistance and guidance. That's what we want to do."

Thabo Ndlovu, 32, has been here five years, but still has to serve at least 10 years of a 20-year sentence for murder.

He casually leans over the bench as he speaks. "Chess I play for different reasons. Let's say you are in a good mood, you may play good chess, sometimes in a bad mood, bad chess. So it all depends on your mood and everything you know. So for me, it’s more an exploration of myself. You discover a lot of things about yourself playing chess."

For the prisoners, the GSCA's interest reminds them that they are not forgotten.

"People do need that extra, because we are suffering from rejection. Being in prison is like being rejected from society. It's like you are here, you are there, so interaction with people from the outside I think exposes and re-freshens us, makes us feel more in touch," Ndlovu says.

Most of the men willing to be interviewed are in prison because of armed robbery. Victor Modise, 28, four years away from release, is one of them.

"When I'm playing chess, I'm relaxed. I forget about most things here, about my problems. I grew up a hard way so I'm just trying to forget those things.

"In prison we get frustrated, and sometimes you get angry with yourself... 'Why did I do that? How did I end up here?'

"When you are playing chess, you get relaxed and go down with it. You start thinking positively, and thinking of changing."

Best player

Benji Vilikazi, 53, claims he is the best player in the prison, bar one of the warders.

Convicted of attempted murder, he has two years until his release, and relaxes by playing chess. He started a chess club in Katlehong before going to prison.

"It relaxes your mind. You do your stuff outside. When you want to relax, you take your board and then pick your opponent. Then, you play, you relax your mind because everything goes smoother."

Warder Eric Mthenjwa was the person who contacted the GSCA for its expertise and remains its link with the prison, said Boksburg Correctional Services spokesman Patrick Thobejane.

"Having done our part reintegrating these guys back into society, we still have resistance from the public, in terms of stigmatising these offenders, even though we believe they are already changed people.

"So, having partners such as the GSCA, helps us in terms of incorporating these people, helping with public acceptance. We are about second chances," he says.

He feels the GSCA's involvement with the prison is just the beginning and says the authorities are hoping to recruit more inmates to play the game.

"The next step will be to grow the sport and expose whoever has got talent, who are the best, and expose them to the outside world. I’m optimistic that this is the beginning of great things to come," Thobejane says.

For prisoner Ndlovu, chess has become one of the little things in life that count.

"That's what you actually get exposed to in prison, because sometimes when you are outside, you just want something big," he says.

- SAPA
Read more on:    good news  |  prisons
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

10 facts about swimming you didn't know

This will make you want to jump right into the pool.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Snors with a cause - creating awareness of male health
Inspiring: Rock climbing with just one leg
Watch! Skateboarders racing cyclists
Exciting new zipline for Cape Town!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R2100 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

TV Series – 2 for R299

Loads of hot titles to choose from. Shop now!

Hot offer: Up to 50% off irons

Save up to 50% on all Philips irons. While stocks last. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be doing the work and playing the game, but your innovative mind is on a far away planet planning the next big thing....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.