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In the crocodile's mouth – Part II
Sep 9, 2009
In the first part I told you how an optimistic and ambitiously planned orgonite gifting expedition landed us in prison in Mozambique. The story is interesting not so much because of it's pity factor (poor us for having to endure 53 days of detention under quite harsh conditions, at least by first world standards) but for the major publicity it created for the cause of orgonite and the interesting interaction between us detained orgone warriors and the highest institutions of the Republic of Mozambique, namely the presidency and the office of the prime minister.
I shall try to use an as much as possible chronological format from now on, in order not to get carried away and confused.
Sabotage, espionage, terrorism: orgone warriors accused of unspeakable crimes
Monday 20 April
We soon realised that our situation was much more serious than we first thought. Somehow police interrogators all over the world are quite smart in getting their victim's cooperation by giving them this feeling of “come on, we're just going to ask you a few questions and if everything is as you say, you'll be free in no time” so you come along without too much fuss and are much easier to handle for them.
So we had thought this prison was just a temporary holding cell and we would be out of there in no time. They even let us go in there with our cellphones and other belongings, insinuating there was no problem keeping the stuff. It was not like this of course and the first thing was that all our private belongings were taken from us and checked into a steel cupboard at the prison office.
As is to be expected, we were quite apprehensive at first and rather cuddled in one corner of the large hall where other prisoners were gathered around an open fire.
The structure was obviously an old disused car workshop of sorts.
It had an airy roof on steel trusses that allowed for a strip of sky to be seen and provided good ventilation. The old offices on the left side were used as the actual cells. 5 of them as far as I remember, each about 3 x 4 m where 17-21 prisoners had to sleep on the naked concrete floor.
Tuesday 21 April
we were called out to attend a complete search of our car under heavy armed guard in the presence of police, customs officials and secret service offices. Many insinuating and leading questions were asked and the general atmosphere was quite aggressive. Especially the customs official took on a very threatening and unpleasant pose.
Nick, the Manager of Ugezi Tiger Lodge where we had camped came to see us in the evening. He said it was very difficult for him to see us and that he had to try 3 times or more in order to finally be granted a visit. He said he would not be able to visit us again. We asked him urgently to help find a lawyer for us. The same message was put out to a bystanding business man who watched the scene of our car search and with whom I was able to exchange a few words.
Wednesday 22 April
Our case officer Senor White (a black Mozambican, but somehow he or his family had aquired this English surname) took us to court, after we had pestered him with fancy legalities for a while about not holding us illegally without charging us formally. But no paper was produced and nothing was explained to us. We went back without result. White obviously wanted it to look like some kind of legalisation of our imprisonment, but it wasn't.
At this time we were told to expect a few days until they would have conducted some tests and then of course, if everything was as we said....
Same old tactics.
We were not heavily guarded, basically walking to the court with Sr. White and could have easily run away if this had seemed a viable option to us. Convinced of my innocence I wasn't ready to risk all my confiscated property and my life in an adventurous escape. (How nice it would have been for them to hunt us and shoot us while trying to escape, no more questions asked)
Maybe they did this on purpose to entice us to do just that. Otherwise I could not explain the strange contrast between the severity of the allegations and the sloppyness of our guard.
Thursday 23 April
After a rather featureless day, only interrupted by counting appeals (chamada) and eating, we were finally visited by Dr. Nhantumbo, who was the lawyer somehow alerted to our need either by Nick or that anonymous business man. We will never know for sure, how word got to him.
If you think in terms of what you know about criminal procedures mostly from American movies, you may believe that detainees have “a right to their phone call” or some such niceties.
This doesn't seem to be common practice in Africa. (See my similar experience in Zimbabwe in 2006, www.orgoniseafrica.com/prisoners.html) Things happen via the grape vine or actually you depend on the goodwill (to be achieved through bribing) of your carcer masters.
A rather good looking and well dressed tall black man with an energetic and youthful demanour, Dr. Nhantumbo immediately became our ray of hope and focus of all the sympathy and trust we could muster. In other words: We loved him to bits from day one!
He came in with his wife who doubles up as his secretary. They were allowed to use the desk in the little office of the prison to interview us. After taking statements of our version of events they were quite shocked I think. After all, they had been told that we were terrorism suspects by the police whom they had seen first to get aquainted with the case.
Herminio, as we should call him for most of the time suggested a fee of 750 USD per person for the four of us to which we agreed. We felt quite invigorated after the interviw and were even able to pass on a zapper that we still had in our”handluggage” and a piece of orgonite to him. We were under the impression that our feelings of sympathy were mutual and that Nhantumbo genuinlely sypmathised with our case, which gave us great hope. He was independently pointed out to us as the best lawyer in Tete Province by other prisoners. (prisoners tend to know a lot about who is who in the legal system they're dealing with)
Friday 24 April
This time it was for real: We were taken to court in order to legalise our imprisonment. Now in the presence of our new found lawyer, we made our statements.
We were confronted with all kinds of printouts from our cameras, with a focus on cellphone masts and other objects of “national importance”. The drift was obviously to concoct a kind of sabotage story. Also they confronted us with a “test” conducted in laboratories of HCB (Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa) the operating company of the dam.
This test was of more than dubios nature and extremely manipulative in it's conclusions. But it was accepted by magistrate judge Dr. Domingo Samuel as enough reason to hold us pending further investigation, despite the fact that he had to already admit irregularities in the procedural handling of our arrest and detention.
While they admitted that the orgonite did not dissolve in water, they subjected it to all kinds of very aggressive substances such as fluoric acid etc., then to observe that the dissolved orgonite after such treatment was forming a rather toxic slurry (no mention here that the lake is not made of highly concentrated acids, but of pristine and clear water) which might then be potentially corrosive to the turbines of the dam etc.. also it was noted that water into which one of our orgonite Tbs had been inserted showed a pH value of 2.4 which is acidic.
This was portrayed as potentially damaging to aquatic life forms. Again minimum scientific requirements were not met, as no critical evaluation of quantities took place. After all the dam has 53 cubic kilometres of water. Did they immerse the TB into a glass of water or a bath tub? What was the pH of that water before they immersed the TB? None of this was mentioned yet the most adventurous conclusions were drawn from the funny and layman-like “experiments” that they had done. Enough fig leaf for them to toss us back into the slammer.
It was clear then, that someone was hellbound to have us go through this ordeal without any reference to truth or simple common sense. This “test”was outrageous and the judge knew it as he privately admitted to Nhantumbo, but they went ahead never the less.
At this point we had the impression that the satanic coven seeking our punishment was hiding within the structures of HCB. This suspicion was fuelled by the fact that Nick had told me before our full scale arrest that the environmental director of the local HCB management crew was particularly angry or rather more than just angry with what we had done.
The amount of anger thrown at us and the kind of sustained energy behind the “investigation” began to puzzle us as it is so untypical of Mozambicans who are normally rather laid back with a clear tendency towards “lazyness”. But this....?
Had we succesfully disabled some unacknowledged secret underground base? Alien hive?
I tend to think so because the buzzing angry energy they threw at us had all characteristics of a disturbed hornets nest.
That same day and typically without presence of our lawyer we were subjected to further intimidation in what can only be called an attempted shake down.
Carlos and I were called out and handcuffed. Tino was also handcuffed and locked away in one of the cells while Prophet was locked into another cell without hand cuffs.
We were led first through the police station, always in handcuffs and under heavy armed guard. The demeanour of the soldiers and policemen was very threatening and we were now really afraid. This looked to me like they were about to bring us to a place of torture, some cellar where they can beat you up and nobody hears the cries. All African police forces do that if they deem it fit and probably in Western countries as well. But somehow the whole thing ended in confusion. A vehicle that they had ordered, arrived late (typical Mozambique) and once they had crammed us inside, suddenly they changed their mind and brought us back to the prison. Apparently they had wanted us to point out to them where we had put orgonite in Songo and surrounds, but we told them that was difficult as we would not remember the concrete spots and GPS logs were inconsistent and not very accurate.
After all we did not want to give them more incriminating evidence and were quite happy with the fact that they had no material proof that we had tossed anything anywhere at all, apart from our open and forthcoming “confessions”.
Now they went for Prophet and we started fearing for him, thinking they might see him as the most vulnerable of us 4 and try their ugly trade on him.
After about an hour, when it was already dark, Prophet came back unharmed, alas!
He told us they had driven with him to the office of HCB and left him waiting in the car under guard for most of the time. After that they had come out with some of the HCB people laughing and he was then driven back to the prison. They had apparently been watching the movie footage from my little film camera and now thought they “had us” because it shows us tossing stuff, sometimes near cellphone masts.
A big fuss was made about our electronic equipment even in court where they made it look like these freely available consumer electronic items like GPS, cameras etcetera where the latest from Mr. Q in a James Bond Movie.
We were now more than ever convinced that this “investigation” was driven by HCB and not the police itself.
Definitely none of the printouts and sophisticated analyses of contact networks based on our cellphone data that they had shown us in court was within the technical and even intellectual capabilities of the local police.
HCB runs the show in Songo, that's for sure, as the whole town was only built to accommodate the builders and engineers who built the dam and also now HCB is the only game in town economically.
Apparently they have their own security organisation and probaly a bit of an intelligence network too.
After all, Cahora Bassa is considered probably the most important single structure or building of superior economic importance in Mozambique.
It can be considered a national monument and a lot of the anger that was purposefully directed at us was fuelled by feelings of hurt national pride or feelings that we had violated their souvereignty. These feeling are deeply rooted in a history of decades of civil war funneled by an inextricable melé of foreign interference including of course mercenary commandos who would blow up bridges, lay land mines and other such gruesome activities.
How easy for someone who wanted to deter us from further gifting in Africa to trigger all these traumatic memories in a country where people still get maimed by leftover land mines every week or so?
Saturday 25 – Monday 27 April
We wrote a detailed statement, refuting all accusations that we have become aware of so far. First we formulate it in English and then Carlos translated it into Portuguese. We wanted Nhantumbo to be well armed. No action by the “authorities”.
Tuesday 28 April
They had brought in high ranking prosecutors and criminal investigators from the capital Maputo in the meantime.
Obviously there was a sentiment in Maputo that “the local boys could not handle it”.
We were brought to a different building in town, the local prosecution office. After a while a cavalcade of relatively shiny 4x4s arrived and a few gentlemen who seemed very convinced of their own great importance alighted from those vehicles and entered the building.
Nhantumbo was also there.
I was called in first. The chief prosecutor from Maputo, the highest ranking one in that delegation did not partake in the interrogation. The actual interview was conducted by a prosecutor and a police criminal investigator from Maputo. I do not recall their names even though they did introduce themselves. But we did never receive a copy of the written record of this interview.
The often leading and insinnuating questions were very much geared towards the complex of “espionage, sabotage, terrorism”.
Not a surprise, as obviously whoever started this made sure it stayed on this level. They had to of course deliberately ignore a lot of information in order to prevent common sense from entering the picture. I wonder if any of these guys ever took a look at my website www.orgoniseafrica.com.
I gave the address to the police at the first interview.
We were under the impression that this information and our previous statements to the magistrate were deliberately supressed in order to keep all the players in this mind frame as if they were involved in a “big fish” terrorism case.
Despite all these adverse factors, I believe our statements made an impression. We were calm, friendly and cooperative but not submissive. Later heard through the grapevine that the prosecutors found me arrogant, probably that's the part that I call “polite but not submissive”.
We did not deny any of the material facts and generally told the truth about our expedition, what we had done so far and what we had planned to do. I also told tehm freely about my previous expeditions of similar nature. This is public knowledge anyways, so why not talk about it.
Carlos went in second and that was all that fitted in one day.
Wednesday 29 April
The interviews - or rather interrogations - continued with Tino and Prophet. Nhantumbo had meanwhile managed to find some Portuguese websites talking about orgonite and submitted the printouts to the prosecution. Obviously a good move to show that we were not the only website talking about it and that it had entered the Portuguese speaking world independent of our little troupe. After the interviews were finished we all had a good feeling and somewhat expected the charges to be dropped immediately or at least next day. This feeling was especially fuelled by what we learned informally and totally “off the record”:
Apparently another test had been conducted in Maputo and found the orgonite sample free of any dangerous substances.
The guys at HCB had finally looked at our website and now knew that we were innocent of Sabotage, espionage or whatever was the charge against us.
We had seen the prosecutors speak very animatedly with Nhantumbo and congratulate him on his good work. So we really expected it all to be over very quickly now.
In the meantime I had developed a painfully swollen leg, probably started by a small wound I had contracted stumbling over a high step in the prison at night on the way to the toilet.
Thursday 30 April
A decision on our fate is indeed promised and our hopes are high but no news transpires. Prison routine. I develop fever from the infected leg. We have no more zapper at this stage.
Friday 01 May
Today we are not let out into the open hall. After the morning appeal the whole prison is locked back in the hot and stuffy cells.
We later found out that the guards who knew we had money were basically displeased because we had not paid them a goodwill bribe yet. That was the reason why the whole prison was made to suffer. Welcome to the Mozambican “justice” system!
We corrected that of course, by paying them. It was a bit difficult to do that with a dignified face.
Saturday 02 May
Corruption is an important part if not the most important part of the interactions between wardens and prisoners in Mozambique. As we were to learn, everything can be bought: drugs, prostitutes, food, privileges of all sorts. Of course there is always a limit where the warden would compromise his position and continued employment. He does not compromise that normally or the bribes wióuld have to be extremely high.
We used the system to gain access to telephone calls by buying wardens airtime in return for which they allowed us to send SMSes home and ask our home team (mostly Friederike was the one who kept the others informed and talked to me frequently) to call us back.
In this way we had frequent communication with home while in Songo. This was to change later when we were transferred to the provincial capital Tete, but for now we were able to speak to home almost daily. We were also able to speak to Nhantumbo who told us he was in Maputo to “cut the bullshit at the top”. Obviously he was trying to utilise all his contacts to prevent the “Authorities” in Maputo from falsifying or further delaying the test on which our freedom depended.
Just a little anecdote by the side:
when I first entered the prison I was shocked by the grotto-like filth that was called the bathroom in this place. There were 2 squatting toilets of broken porcelaine with permanently running water. Everything around these toiltes was quite filthy and one would not want to come in touch with any of these surfaces for sure.
In the same compartment there were 2 pipes sticking out of the wall with equally permanenetly runing water. Nobody has ever installed a water meter there apparently and so they kept water running happily the whole day also in the big hall through an open channel that traversed the whole length of the hall.
One could get into this shower by balancing over a few slippery stones which gave the whole setup it's cave like appearance.
Very basic conditions!
I only realised after a while that these horrible ablution facilities were obviously considered a blessing by the wardens who regularly took showers there, obviously not having running water at home.
The normal wardens earn no more than 100 US Dollar worth of Mozambican Meticais per month. No wonder they are so keen to augment their meager salaries.
Sunday 3 May
No news nor action from the state side. We wither away in relative boredom.
Some general observations:
Theoretically prisoners in Mozambique have similar rights to prisoners in more developed countries. The wardens gave us a brochure called “Os direitos do detidos” or “the rights of detainees” among which we found familiar ideas like:
- The right to legal representation. In case a detainee cannot afford a private lawyer this would even include a state lawyer.
The right to nutritious and healthy food
The right to physical exercise
The right to proper medical care
Freedom from wanton corporal punishment or other abuse
Interestingly that little brochure needed the sponsorship of at least 11 or 12 foreign embassies in order to get published, symptomatic for the donor dependant mentality in this country.
The prison food alone is not nutricious enough to maintain even minimum health. It consists of rice, maize meal and brown beans, nothing else ever, two times a day.
That's it, day in day out for years to come if one is sentenced.
Without supplementation from what relatives may bring their detained kin or what prisoners are allowed to buy outside through privileged prisonmers who are allowed to go out, this must definitely lead to disease and death. Subsequently we found that many of the long term sentenced prisoners looked quite emaciated, pretty much like what you normally get shown as “AIDS” victims.
AIDS in Africa of course is basically malnutrition + vaccine and medication induced damage to the immune system, so the prison diet just accelerates a trend that affects poor Africans inside and outside the walls of prisons alike.
Some prisoners get beaten every day and a large group of the sentenced prisoners are allowed to leave their stuffy overcrowded cells only for the counting appeals. Surely no organised effort to allow for healthy exercise is undertaken.
State lawyers are an unheard of luxury and those who can affort the exorbitantly expensive private lawyers find that their communication with those lawyers is being obstructed at any level. Nor do the police have a culture of respecting the rights of lawyers or the relative sanctity of lawyer-client privacy. We were officially not even allowed to phone Nhantumbo nor was he automatically called to be present in ad-hoc interrogations.
Medical care was basically the dishing out of pills to those who had been declared sick.
A nurse from the hospital came from time to time to administer pills.
I had received antibiotics for my infected leg only from Nhantumbo. Afte a while the guards started giving us disinfectant and penicillin powder, the only chance to control the festering sores under the generally dirty conditions.
A doctor only came to see me much later after a general attitude change was ordained from above, not in the normal course of events.
Hygiene is difficult to maintain under these crowded conditions. Nevertheless we observed that the prisoners are trying to keep themselves clean and washing of clothes, taking showers and so on takes up a lot of time in the prisoner's life every day. Ingenious systems have been devised by prisoners. Personal belongings hang on strings from hooks under the roof, so that foods or other belongings are safe from rats and mice.
Since the prison cells are not opened at night, prisoners have invented a smart system to urinate into a cut plastic bottle which is inserted into a tiny hole in the floor near the door that is basically a small pipe connection to the ditch outside with the permanently running water.
You have to learn to use it though and a bit of urine is allways spillt.
Our every day prison life in Songo
We managed to do quite a bit of exercise while in Songo prison. I did about 20-30 minutes of Yoga exercises and Tino and Prophet did a round of Tai Chi every morning. Carlos did not participate in any physical exercises but did a lot of meditative grounding work while standing upright with closed eyes. All this attracted quite a bit of curiosity of course. We decided not to care though for “public perception” for what was there to lose if they thought us a bit weird?
Prophet even did one of his poetry recitations which always include singing and powerful recitations of spoken words which caused quite a stir.
At that time we still hadn't finished all our books, so reading helped to fill some of the slowly passing time. Since they had confiscated about 6000 Mts in cash from us, we could access that money for the buying of food (and other usefull expenses)
For breakfeast we mostly had bananas, freshly baked Portuguese style bread rolls and some very chemical jam and margerine.
To augment the maize-pap (they call it Nshima in Mozambique) we got tinned sardines and also we were able to get our dry food box from the car with some camping pots to use over the communal cooking fire.
We got along well with the other prisoners who were not particularly violent or threatening.
On the contrary, we heard many heart breaking stories of crude injustice that had brought many of them to prison. Of course not everybody there is “innocent” (whatever that means in a sick society like Mozambique, where lies and deception and cruel oppression of the majority by a greedy and totally corrupt “elite” is the normal modus operandi) but many sit months and years for petty crimes like stealing an egg, while those who put them there are happily stealing millions without any sanction whatsoever. A weird system.
Simple people without money basically get convicted as accused.
If the boss says they have stolen they get sentenced accordingly. Finished and klaar! No investigation, no witnesses apart from the accuser needed. Investigation is regarded as a cumbersome burden anyways and shunned wherever possible. That doesn't prevent some of these gents to pose as "investigative officers" because the title sounds impressive.
This is probably still like under the Portuguese slave masters. Tete was a major base of the unofficial but thriving Portuguese slave trade up until mid or late nineteenth century when it was still witnessed and described by David Livingstone.
Of course you get your career criminals and gangster kingpins who even at prison brazenly enjoy the privileges and relative power their illgotten gains can still buy them behind prison walls.
Apart from reading and exercise we soon had another pleasant distraction: we had made a makeshift game of chess out of an A4 paper and even the pieces were drawn with ball pen on paper and carefully torn from the bigger page.
So we played chess a lot.
Prophet actually learnt it in prison and got quite good at it over the weeks.
We watched the strip of sky that we could see between the surrounding walls and the roof a lot. We found lovely cumulus and a lot of humidity in the air. Unusual for the time of the year, approaching the dry winter period where the sky is normally steel blue without clouds.
We also noticed the sweet, energised taste of the water that was flowing so freely through our involuntary home.
That water was pumped directly from Cahora Bassa and you could feel the lovely orgone created by our many orgonite gifts. Surely it did not smell or taste “contaminated” in any way.
Despite our outwardly unpleasant situation, I remember the overarching feeling as peaceful and happy, as unbelievable as this may sound.
We had many good conversations and especially Tino proved to have great entertaining talent with his word-by-word true renditions of many movies from “For a fistful dollars” to “Blackadder goes forth” and Louis Farakhans blood curling speech “The shock of the hour”. So we did have a bit of fun once in a while, mixed of course with anxiety about how our strange situation would further develop.
In the meantime our home team did not sleep
There was lots of talk of accessing high ranking politicians in Botswana and South Africa. After all Tino has been a very respected pilot in the Botswana Airforce and was offered a high profile job directly by the president of Botswana in a one hour personal interview just before our trip. We could expect some support from that corner and should later also learn that it had been forthcoming albeit with no immediate effect.
Monday 4 May
Spoke to Nhantumbo. He's still in in Maputo. Said he had not seen the test results but that “everything is under control”.
Tuesday 5 May
we're getting restless, waiting for news. In the very late afternoon in already fading light we were suddenly called out, handcuffed and brought to the yard of the police station. Wondering what this was about and fearing another shake-down style aggressive interreogation we were pleasantly surprised to see TV cameras and a bunch of cilvilians who turned out to be newspaper reporters gathered there.
In fact Nhantumbo had mentioned earlier that he would “bring in the media” if the case wasn't resolved soon. Had he arranged for this?
It turned out that the TV host from Mozambique's national TV was definitely a friend of Nhantumbo's and in fact we were able to speak to Nhanmtumbo through the TV guy's phone.
Carlos gave a lengthy in depth interview which went quite well. All of us were asked a few questions and the TV producer asked the camera man to zoom in on my swollen leg which looked quite awful by then.
Wednesday 6 May
Things now seemed to turn in our favour finally. We're picking up from what other prisoners tell us that favourable voices were increasing out there in radio and newspapers.
Also suddenly a doctor from the hospital came to see me about my leg and even though she only looked at it from a distance then to prescribe another antibiotic it was a sign of changed attitude. The doctor even told the prison wardens that I had to ly with the leg raised and someone fetched a bench and everybody was suddenly fussing about me.
Prophet gave a radio interview. It seemed the media were now catching on to the story big time.
In the evening I was called out into the commander's office. 2 gentleman, one of whom was introduced as a provincial government official were with commander Jorge. The other one spoke German fluently and told me he'd studied in Munich. Everyone was suddenly extremely friendly.I was offered bisquits and Coca Cola and they apologised for the inconveneniences we were having to endure. They said it was only going to be another test and a few more days and then we would be surely free. Interesting. The hot - cold treatment or what? I told them they must talk to Tino as well who has flown so many support missions for the Mozambican army while still a pilot in the Botswana airforce.
By then we did not know yet that our story had made international news headlines from BBC to Portuguese national TV and all the major South African Newspapers and some national radio stations. A friend of mine even heard about our fate on the radio in Berlin.
Thursday 7 May
We still haven't seen Nhantumbo in person for 8 days or so. We officially demand the right to phone our lawyer in writing and the guards confirm delivery to commander Jorge.
No reaction. Instead Senor White comes in and demands that all our goodies that are still held in the steel cupboard are turned over to the police station. We are made to sign a new amended list for the confiscated goods. We wrongly think this is some kind of petty retaliation for our audacious demands. We would discover the next day that the concentration of our goods in one hand was the preparation for transferring us to Tete, the provincial capital.
The battle in the press had begun, to a much larger extent than we could fathom from our isolated position in prison and it seemed to swing in our favour. Now finally we really felt reason for optimism.
Suddenly we heard the president saying in the radio that nobody should jump to conclusions about our guilt or innocence. Then the Prime Minister came on and said she believed we were innocent.
Friday 8 May
No wonder we thought it was going to be our release when we were told to pack our things in the morning and be ready to be transported to Tete.
With all the build up of the last 48 hours we thought they had scheduled our release to be done in Tete.
The wardens and even the quicksilvery “commander Jorge” all let us feel that they expected us to be set free in Tete. People in the prison system tend to get a bit sentimental when a prisoner gets released.
The may say things like “we hope you'll keep us in good memory” and so on...
It is also known that terrorist hostage takers have a desire to be liked by their victims. Same here.
Of course the usual delays made the waiting long. Finally we were packed in the back of my own Landrover handcuffed to some other prisoners while most of our belongings were haphazardly thrown onto the back of a pickup truck that had to accommodate more handcuffed prisoners. The boat was hooked onto the Landrover and armed guards squezed into the Landrover and the pickup trick.
Little did we know what was to await us in Tete, so clearly was our mind set on freedom...
To be continued in Part III - watch this space!