Prisoners take to chess for peace of mind

By Drum Digital
22 March 2012

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 4000-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.

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