#Brixton141: A post-prison diary

By Thato Magano (@ThatoMagano)

Thato Magano recounts the twenty four hours he spent in the police holding cells at the Brixton polie station with students and workers from the University of Johannesburg & the Witwatersrand, who would come to be known as the #Brixton141.

Post taken from a Facebook update and published with permission

uj kneeling 2


I was arrested.

I can’t think about it just yet.

I worry yam is the situation we are going to wake up tomorrow at UCT!

I worry yam is the silencing tactics of the bail conditions of the ‪#‎Brixton141‬

I worry yam is that right now, I feel that I should have used today strategically with other comrades planning how we are going to show solidarity with those arrested at court tomorrow. But I have been barred by the law.

I am not allowed to congregate with more that 14+ people. I feel isolated

I feel disempowered. I feel alone and scared, uncertain and anxious.

I have generally described my jail time as not that stressful or traumatic. I kept saying to people that it felt like how it would feel if you’re parents had grounded you to your room, locked the door but still let you have all your toys.

Its only now, in the hours leading to what will be my first ever court appearance, that I am having a moment.

Earlier today, jokingly, I said to a friend that now that I have been arrested in service to the movement, I would use this line as the best silencing technique to anyone who critiques my contribution moving forward.

“Well, have you ever seen the inside of a police cell?” yet now, having this moment, seeing tweets about the security deployed at UCT and the continuing savagery by Rensburg at UJ, I recognise how precarious our arrests were.

I am shaken. I did not think I would be BUT now, I am.

I suppose I realise only now what this moment means for our country. I am connecting the dots with 1960, with 1976 and 2012.

I am reading timelines from those who stayed the 24hrs with us outside the police station. How they slept on concrete floors and in cars. How they inconvenienced their lives to make sure they attended to the many “they will be released just now” announcements made before it was finally confirmed. Their anguish.

Their pain at the thought of what could only have been imaginable to be the prism of inhumane treatment as now we have enough evidence as black people to know that a police station is not a friendly neighbourhood hangout spot.

I am shaken. I am shaken.

I am sad. I am sad.

I cannot see what the silver lining looks like. I cannot see the end of the tunnel.

Black life is a perpetual comedy of sadness, misery and countenance.

I am exhausted.

I am tired of the mask I was not aware I wore from Friday afternoon when I was pushed into the back of that police van. I wore it and it held me sane and safe for 48hrs. Yet I realise this is the mask I wear everyday of my life.

First as a black man, then as a black gay man.

What is the alternative though as I don’t know what other mask to wear as this is the only one that will get me through the court appearance tomorrow and what will surely be an avalanche of court appearances if the case is not thrown out.

It is the mask that will make sure I can sit and concentrate so I can study for an exam with course material that is epistemically violent to my blackness.

It is the only mask I have known to keep me sane everyday of my life. Structural violence is threatening to impede my ability to function with the wounds as I have been able to. It threatens to open me up so that I can deflect from the movement to focus on the scab that continues to form in the contours of all the emotional scars of the battlefront that is the absolute resolution and commitment to ‪#‎Blackness‬ and ‪#‎BlackLove‬.

I cannot retreat. I am unable to retreat.

So much needs to be done yet my mask is threatening to expose me. I am at its mercy. I want to remain strong. I must remain strong.

I am exhausted.

I am unable to stop the loop that is “thina silwela amalungelo wethu”.

In several quiet moments, I have relieved the memory of me and a comrade singing “Thina Sizwe” when comrades were tired and sleep was all they could master. Just the two of us, we sang as if we were singing a lullaby to the other 30 comrades we were in the cell with. We sang so that our souls felt the transformative healing of a shared moment of prayer. It was quiet. We understood in that moment what was at stake.

Thina sizwe/
si lwela izwe lethu/
e la thathwa a ma bhunu/
Maba uyeke/
umhlaba wethu!

I am exhausted because this is what is at stake.

I am exhausted because the arrest signals the first of many for me.

I am exhausted because I have a Masters degree I want to complete yet I do not have the inclination right now to even open a textbook.

I am exhausted because UCT is going to be under fire again tomorrow.


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