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Tim Jenkin

Timothy Peter Jenkin is a South African writer, former political prisoner and prison escapee, and a monetary activist.[1]

Tim Jenkin
Tim Jenkin (2017).jpg
Tim Jenkin (2017)

He was born in Cape Town in 1948 and educated at Rondebosch Boys' Prep and Boys' High School. He earned his B.Soc.Sci. degree at the University of Cape Town in 1973 and began his career as a social worker at a reform school in Swindon, UK the following year. He then worked as a researcher for the Institute for Social Development at the University of the Western Cape.[2][3]

Jenkin was charged with "producing and distributing 18 different pamphlets on behalf of banned organisations" including the South African Communist Party, African National Congress and the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. He did so from 1975 to 1978 and also posted a sign on the seventh floor of a Cape Town building which said "The ANC lives". He was arrested, pleaded guilty to all charges and received a 12-year sentence. However, a year later in 1979, Jenkin and fellow inmates Alex Moumbaris[4] and Stephen Lee[5] broke out of Pretoria Central Prison using handmade keys to 9 of the doors leading out of the prison[6]. Denis Goldberg, a fellow inmate, distracted the warden whilst the three made their escape.[7]

Jenkin subsequently moved to London and worked as a Research Officer for the International Defence and Aid Fund.[3]

He returned to South Africa in 1991 to manage the ANC's communications network. He worked for the ANC Elections Briefing Unit from 1994 before being appointed head of their Electronic Information Unit in Cape Town later that year, leaving that position in 1997 to become Director of Unwembi Communications (Pty) Ltd.[2] He co-founded the Community Exchange System in 2003, and was elected an Ashoka fellow in 2007.[8]

In 1995 he wrote a 6-part series of articles called Talking to Vula: The Story of the Secret Underground Communications Network of Operation Vula published in Mayibuye: Journal of the African National Congress.[9][10] He wrote a book describing the prison break called Inside Out: Escape from Pretoria Prison (first published in 2003).[11][12]

The story of the prison escape was dramatised in the series Breakout, season 2, episode 7, in 2013.[7]

In 2014 a documentary film called The Vula Connection, about Jenkin and his part in the creation of an ingenious secret communication system that enabled Vula operatives to penetrate South Africa's borders in secret, ultimately smuggling messages to the imprisoned Nelson Mandela, was made by Marion Edmunds.[13][14]

In May 2017, it was announced that production would start in 2018 on a film of his book, with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe playing Jenkin. The film is to be produced by David Barron.[15]

In April 2018 he was awarded the RSA Conference Award for Excellence in the Field of Humanitarian Service.[16][17]