Let He Who has No Sin…

On the 25th of March, barely 27 days before elections I had the (mis) fortune of meeting, after many months since he left me and Sowetan’s controversial journalist Riot Hlatswayo standing at a hurridly organised press briefing immediately after his release from Barberton Maximum Security Prison, convicted lion-feeder Mark Scott-Crossley. I must admit this time he was less-stressed. Mark was wearing a white checked shirt and indigo coloured denim shorts. They were there to eradicate some mushy bush in a school which has accumulated due to the rainfall that has been pouring unabated. Mark reasoned that the bush will need more than just shovels and rakes to kill but grass cutters and mowers. Then he had to go to the municipal office with a correctional officer to ask for help. After being told that the workers were contracted he offered to pay them to do the same in the school yard. Then while they were pondering it he jumped into the bakkies to cruise to the school and join the others. I told him he really looked good and fresh and he thanked me from the bottom of his heart and told me that stories about him not doing parole had been bad for his father and family.

I started believing heart transplant pioneer Dr Chris Barnad had been reincarnated for this one transplant in Hoedspruit since it didn’t feel like the heart that threw a man into a lion’s enclosure or the one I met fresh out of jail at the correctional facility. He was very humble and apologetic and giving advices to kids on how to stay out of jail. We spotted Riot scouting us with his camera, taking pictures through the windshield of his car. When he came closer I asked him why did he have to do it through the windshield and he was scared offering Mark an olive branch for having written in one issue that he was not doing any community service. Mark was telling him he was not going to give him an interview unless officers were there and it was vetted.

Apparently Mark was in Bushbuckridge to do his community service by taking part in the cleaning of a primary school together with tens of other former inmates. The kids at the school, who most were toddlers when he was sent off to do his time loved his presence. The man’s self esteem is surprising, when other parolees had difficulty expressing themselves during the induction and vote of thanks he volunteered to speak on their behalf. His self esteem made the absence of the male black teachers who kept on delegating women to speak on their behalf to look hollow. I was ashamed; through the prism of a white man who was introducing me to his friends from prison.

I won’t tell you all that he said here because I still have to write it for a newspaper but he was pretty humble. We spoke about national reconciliation and he had nice things to say about Jacob Zuma and people’s perception of others especially when the only experience they have had about them was what the media has told them.

I spent a fruitful four hours with him, we chatted casually, worked together, interviewed him about race relations, took his countless pictures and even brokered a truce between him and Riot. Riot’s fuck-up was testimony that when you are a journalist who has made a habit of lying you end up running away from your valuable sources as Riot was doing on the day until Mark spotted him earlier on when he was taking pictures through his windshield and offered him a truce in exchange for two litres of coke since it was bloody hot. The coke was bought but ended up being drunk by a lot of people who were working on the fields.

Hours later the two were shaking hands and me, you know, I was there to capture the biggest make-up moment of the 21st century – only rivaled by Nelson Mandela shaking FW de Klerk’s hands after a live television debate. However Riot, and other journalists like him should stop thumb-sucking stories since he was making life akward for the lion feeding parolee on his way to being absorbed back into society. But take it from me, the man is bloody reformed and I would trust him with a 303 Lee Anfield rifle (oops,a Hungry Lion).

More on Mark Scott Crossley on ‘MSHINI WAM’.

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