Raped in prison at knife point
The 19th of November 2016 is a day that One Paulos will never forget.
That afternoon, while serving a ten-year sentence at Gaborone Maximum Prison for robbery, he decided to stay back in his cell when the rest of the inmates went out to play football during ‘leisure’ time.
It is a decision that will haunt the 25-year-old for the rest of his life.
13 of Paulos’ 14 cellmates filed out – all except for one elderly prisoner, aged around 50, who also chose to remain in the cell.
A few minutes later, it became brutally clear why he elected to stay behind.
Paulos says the old man withdrew a self-crafted knife from under his queen mattress, before walking calmly towards him and commanding him to take off his pants.
“He pressed the knife to my neck and threatened to kill me if I screamed. I lay on my bed as he raped me. As I began to cry, he pressed the knife harder and told me he would kill me if I dared report him,” Paulos recalled, his dark eyes misting over as he mentally relives the traumatic memory.
Paulos explained that the incident happened shortly after he was transferred from Moshupa Boys Prison. He never reported the matter because he feared for his life and was sure his assailant would find a way to carry out his deadly threat.
“It was surely the most painful experience a man can ever endure. For days I wrapped myself under the blankets not only because of the physical trauma but due to the shame that came with it. I have never felt so helpless before in my life,” revealed Paulos in an exclusive interview with The Voice in Metsimotlhabe where he is doing his extra mural service.
Shortly after the rape incident, Paulos was transferred to Tsabong Prison to complete his sentence. However, he still kept silent, explaining away his silence by saying, “Security in prison is compromised.
“I don’t know what the man is in for, but he looks dangerous. His face haunts me even now. The problem with our prisons is that the inmates are not protected. They just lock us in and forget about us. Nobody cares about what happens inside the cells.
“Prisoners make knives from prison fences and threaten others with them. There is a lot of violence behind bars as though convicts have no right to be protected – it is not right!” he said, adding that knives, referred to as ‘Nxolo’ in prison lingo, are a common weapon inside the cells.
Although Paulos escaped the ordeal without contracting a sexually transmitted disease, he has not recovered from the psychological damage and emotional scars caused by the rape.
“I no longer trust people and I don’t think I will ever look at men the same way I used to,” he said, adding he feels he may need counselling as he has developed ‘hatred and mistrust’ towards other people.
Having originally been sentenced to ten years imprisonment, Paulos’ conviction was reduced to six years. He was released earlier this year but still has nine months of community service left to complete.
He requested the interview to speak out about his ordeal but also to warn others, especially the youth, about the health risks that come with going to prison.
“I was a petty thief. I used to hide in the streets of Gamadisa Ward in Mogoditshane with my friend. We would choke our target to stop them from screaming before running off with their valuables.
“We stole almost any hand luggage but we got a 10-year sentence for snatching a laptop from a Botho College student,” Paulos revealed, adding they would sell the stolen laptops for around P700 because they wanted quick cash.
“We were unemployed but wanted the finer things in life. We wanted to have money, but look where it led us. I regret everything I have done and have learnt my lesson. Prison affects people in many ways emotionally and exposes one to communicable and non-communicable diseases such as T.B and others – I was lucky that I did not get HIV when I was raped,” warned the former crook, who insists he is reformed and plans to venture into the music industry having already written many songs.
When contacted for a comment, Prison’s Spokesperson, Wamorena Ramolefe, stressed there were numerous structures in place designed to help inmates like Paulos register such complaints.
“When prisoners are admitted, they are made aware of standing orders. They are made aware of protocol and the channel of registering grievances and they all have opportunities of one on one sessions with counsellors, social workers, Pastors, Psychologists, visiting committees, official visitors including Judges and Magistrates,” Ramolefe explained.
He added that when an inmate registers a cases of sodomy, the matter is litigated because prisoners, just like any citizen, have the right to be protected from abuse.
He further maintained that generally Botswana Prisons are secure.
“We do have detectors and we do random searches and we do intercept weapons from prisoners,” Ramolefe asserted.