At the beginning of this year I was both excited and anxious about starting on “thejourneytoadream“: my dream.
Some nights I tossed and turned, I lay awake at night worried about whether I would enjoy this and whether or not it would be what I expected.
I also wondered if I would be good enough.
On Thursday last week, I was recovering from a personal problem. I was sad but kept my cool because that’s how I deal out in the open.
I looked forward to putting the paper to rest and drinking like a beast at the court reporting party.
We sat there, drank our wine and beer, enjoyed the treats and waited in anticipation to hear if our time at the dingy Johannesburg magistrates court had bore any fruit.
I’ll be honest. I complained throughout the week and really didn’t imagine that by the end of it all I could say I won court reporter of the week.
It was a great experience, one that taught me that sometimes as a journalist I will be put in a situation that I do not want to be in but that will teach me something about life.
I learned about the social injustices of our society and I learned about the criminal system. The criminal system which works in some instances but fails in so many other ways.
I remember the story of a man who was taken into custody for stealing nappies for his baby. He spent close to 30 days in a holding cell with criminals who had committed various crimes. Rapists, murderers, fraudsters and the likes all in the same room.
We spoke to a lawyer and she said being in a holding cell was worse than being in jail. She said people in holding cells had very few rights and privileges. She said the saddest part was that some people awaited trial for up to two years. They received no education. They were not free to walk around the jail. They were stuck between four walls all the time with food, water and their fellow holding cell inmates.
Another man who made my heart bleed pleaded with the magistrate not to make him go back to the holding cells. He said at Sun City, they had no beds or blankets. He trembled, with tears in his eyes he begged her not to postpone again.
He had already been found guilty but his sentencing had to be postponed.
His name was Doctor Gule.
“They treat us like animals in there. Some of us are even sleeping around the toilets because of that,” Gule said.
Gule asked the magistrate to give him some money if they were sending him back to the prison. He said he needed the money to buy a bed for R50.
He said the cleaners are forcing the prisoners to pay for blankets and beds. As he had no family who could bring him money he had to sleep on the floor.
The magistrate, Naseema Kahn, dismissed his complaint and told Gule: “Tell them you are a “doctor”. At the end of the day you prisoners use up our money as tax payers to support your lives in jail.”
She told Gule to write a letter to the head of correctional services as there was nothing she could do.
Her dismissal broke my heart. In that moment I found myself looking at prisoners in a different light. They became human like everyone else. The dignity that our constitution claims everyone deserves, had been stripped from them.
I knew they had to serve their time, but I wished they did not have to go through being emasculated in the process.
I left the court. I prayed I’d never have to back but I think if I had to I’d just be better prepared.
By the end of the court party I was in tears. Not only because of my bad day but also because I realised that I was exactly where I should be. I realised that I will go through ups and downs, I will complain, I will fight and even cry but being a reporter gives me a sense of joy that I have never experienced before.
I just thought of all my years in accounting and thought: Thank God for the resilience I learned. Thank God I learned how to overcome even through the darkest hour.
“And the court reporter of the year is….*drumroll* Shandukani Mulaudzi.”
I have not been proud of an achievement as much as this in a long time and I can say well done to myself for my fighting spirit and for not giving up on my dream when it was deferred.