Former anti-apartheid activist Tim Jenkin looks back on great escape

Forty years ago a trio of young anti-apartheid activists imprisoned in Pretoria Central plotted a daring getaway that involved making keys right under the eyes of their captors

17 May 2020 - 00:00 By Jonathan Ancer

Tim Jenkin poked apartheid in the eye. In 1978, when he was 29, Jenkin was imprisoned for distributing anti-apartheid material for the ANC. A day after he and Stephen Lee, his comrade in pamphlet-bomb arms, were arrested, they resolved to escape. Their idea was brilliantly simple: they’d make keys to the prison doors and let themselves out the front door.

On December 11 1979, after 18 months of painstaking planning, Jenkin, Lee and a third political prisoner, Alex Moumbaris, slipped out of Pretoria Central Prison. They are the only convicted political prisoners to ever escape from an apartheid prison. On March 6, Escape from Pretoria, a film celebrating SA’s most audacious prison break, was released in the UK and North America. According to producer Mark Blaney, it will be screened in SA but only later this year. Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe plays the escape’s key man, Jenkin...

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day, Financial Mail or Rand Daily Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.