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Teach-in 2009 Day 4: Deputy Minister J. Cronin

Date Released: Fri, 18 September 2009 11:49 +0200

Jeremy Cronin was made Deputy Minister of Transport in 2009. A Member of Parliament since 1999 and Deputy General-Secretary of the SA Communist Party since 1995, Cronin was imprisoned for seven years (1976-1983) at Pretoria Maximum Security Prison. His first collection of poems, Inside (1983), reflects on this experience. His more recent collections, Even the Dead (1997) and Inside and Out (1999), react in part to South Africa’s dramatic transition. He is renowned as a performance poet and has regularly participated in political rallies and readings. His other publications include The Ideologies of Politics, 30 Years of the Freedom Charter (with Raymond Suttner 1986) and 50 Years of the Freedom Charter (also with Raymond Suttner)

From Jeremy Cronin
“… I was sentenced in 1976 to seven years imprisonment on 17 counts of ‘terrorism’. The common law prisoners in Pollsmoor Prison were very impressed with all of the ‘sabotation’ for which I was evidently responsible. I didn’t dare tell them that the 17 acts were the production and circulation of 17 illegal editions of underground newsletters. They would have been entirely unimpressed. During my seven years’ incarceration in Pretoria Maximum Security my first wife, Anne-Marie, died. Many of the poems in Inside, my first collection, deal with this bereavement. … In the course of the 1980s, in the midst of a general popular cultural ferment, I performed my prison poetry to mass audiences in township halls, at funerals for fallen comrades, and at political rallies in township sports stadiums – it was a frightening, exhilarating and learning experience. During the two states of emergency between 1985 and 1987 I narrowly evaded detention, in the first case by jumping out of a back window with the police banging on the front door.… I was one of the lucky exiles to return soon after the unbanning of the ANC and SACP. I was based in Johannesburg for 10 years, through the 1990s, and participated in the historic multi-party negotiations between 1991 and 1993.”