Escaped apartheid prisoner Tim Jenkin can’t find himself on Oz shores
The South African escaped from an apartheid prison, but Aussie visa issues mean he can't watch 'himself' do it again
In 1979, Tim Jenkin fled his captors by cutting wooden keys and using them to escape from Pretoria Central prison.
Forty years later, keen to be on the set where the movie depicting one of SA’s most daring prison breaks is being shot, Jenkin finds himself trapped again.
This time, though, it’s not the apartheid regime to blame, but the Australian immigration system.
“I’ve been to Australia several times and it’s always taken four or five days to get a visa,” 70-year-old Jenkin said on Thursday from his Cape Town home.
“This time, when I applied at the end of February, they said it would taken between 18 and 29 working days.”
Instead of watching Daniel Radcliffe playing himself in the movie Escape From Pretoria, the activist is having Skype calls with the Harry Potter star. The 29-year-old actor has been keen to understand what motivated Jenkin and fellow escapees Stephen Lee and Alex Moumbaris.
Photographs and videos of Radcliffe on set began to emerge on Thursday after the shoot moved to a public street outside an Adelaide railway station.
Radcliffe was dressed in a striped beige polo shirt, blue and white check flared trousers and a navy cap. Videos showed him riding in the back of a Valiant stationwagon dressed up as a taxi for “non-whites”.
Jenkin – whose autobiography Inside Out: Escape From Pretoria Prison is the basis for the script – suspected the actors were filming a scene of the period before their imprisonment in 1978, when he was branded a terrorist after conducting covert anti-apartheid operations for the ANC.
He, Lee and Moumbaris walked out of Pretoria Central’s front door the following year after cutting wooden keys for 10 doors in the prison workshop, and fled to Europe via Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
Jenkin is still in contact with his fellow escapees, but said the producers who were flying him over had not extended their invitation to them.
He was disappointed that the movie, financed with the assistance of the South Australia Film Corporation, was not being filmed in SA. “They were going to but there were endless problems with the department of arts and culture,” he said.
“In the end the producers got fed up and decided to go to Australia. It’s more expensive but at least things happen there. It’s very sad, because it would have been great to have South African actors and genuine South African accents in the film.”
Jurassic Park star Sam Neill, 71, plays Rivonia activist Denis Goldberg in the film. Goldberg, now 85, was sentenced to four life terms in 1964 and sent to Pretoria Central, where he helped to distract warders as Jenkin, Lee and Moumbaris escaped.
Goldberg, who was released in 1986, did not wish to comment about the movie on Thursday.
Jenkin, founder of the Cape Town Talent Exchange since he returned from exile in 1991, is poring over photographs from the set and hoping his visa arrives before the six-week shoot ends.
He was surprised to see Radcliffe sporting a shaggy brown beard. “I’ve never had a beard, but this isn’t a documentary,” he said. “In any case, most radicals have beards.”