“One hundred dollar fine; two hundred and fifty dollars to be paid in damages and four strokes of the cane on the bare buttocks. Take him away. Next case.”
The twenty-eight-year-old footballer bitterly resented being in this God-forsaken African country. Tony Jeffries was an important name in European soccer and starred in a top club, but he was still forced to tour the world to these backwaters, just because the club wanted to extend its brand across the globe.
Now, he was to get a different kind of brand across his own globes.
It had all happened so quickly. Last night he and some of the backroom boys at the club escaped their hotel to see a bit of night life. That was a big mistake, the town was a dump and there was nothing to do. They did find a rundown bar and had a few drinks, but nothing too much. Then some locals recognised who he was and muscled in. They would not leave him alone, words were exchanged, punches flew, tables got overturned, glasses were smashed, the police were called, and he ended up in the magistrates’ court.
The charges were violent conduct, criminal damage and causing a disturbance. And, for that, in this country you got your arse caned. Judicial corporal punishment was normal here, the law said men up to the age of forty could be lashed and courts routinely sentenced criminals to the cane.
Jeffries had to sit through two others cases before his own was heard. In the first a twenty-eight-year-old man got a fine and three lashes on the bare buttocks for stealing peanuts from a store. In the second, a man got five cuts for trying to snog a woman who did not welcome his advances.
Corporal punishment was a relic from colonial days when the ruling power used the cane liberally against the natives. They treated the locals as if they were children, no matter how old they really were, and believed that administering ‘spankings’ was the way to get them to do as they were told.
Today, people believed corporal punishment was a good method of controlling the population and a sentence of lashing was cheaper than sending people to prison.
So, that’s how Jeffries came to be waiting his turn for a visit to the flogging room at the court. He had spent the night in a police cell, but he couldn’t complain. He was given a chance to call his club who contacted a lawyer and his country’s embassy and got the same response: Jeffries was guilty (he admitted that) and he had to take a whipping. It was the law and that was all that could be said about it.
A doctor had examined Jeffries to ensure he was fit to be whipped. All he did was to put a stethoscope to his chest to test his heart and, of course, Jeffries was fit; he was a world-class athlete, after all.
At one time the beatings were held in the police station’s examination room, but they were later transferred to the present room when it was found that the police station ceiling was too low to permit a full swing of the cane.
In the flogging room there were five adults. Two policemen held Jeffries bent over a table, and his trousers were pulled down.
A third policeman flogged him on his naked buttocks.
So great was the pain caused by the chastisement that a handkerchief was stuffed into his mouth to prevent those present hearing his piteous cries. It might also stop him biting off his tongue.
The policeman threw himself into a striking attitude. This was to be no child’s play.
The chief officer called “One!” His colleague raised the cane and smashed it down on the bare buttocks of the prisoner.
The first stroke had been a sort of overhead and downward cut.
The policeman was in no hurry. The second hand of the chief officer’s watch crawled. The punishment must not be hurried. After five seconds that seem like an age, he called, “Two!”
This second one – whew! – swish! It came underhand and upwards, shattering the bruised flesh.
The doctor took note of Jeffries’s face. It was grey. But the doctor was not concerned. His function was not to stop the infliction of pain but to save the authorities the embarrassment of a man dying under punishment.
Jeffries’s entire consciousness was dominated by the thought of the next stroke – until his torture came to an end or the doctor called a halt.
“Three!” As the third stroke swished home, the footballer lost all sense of his surroundings. A symphony of pain engulfed his whole being. By now, he could no longer keep track of time.
“Four!” Whizz! — slosh! A straight forearm cut fair across the other three lines.
The men let his hands and feet go, he sprang erect with flushed face and suspiciously brilliant eyes. His arse burned as though he’d sat his bare bottom on a hot griddle.
A policeman ushered Jeffries from the room, to ready it for the next customer.
Jeffries could not sit down and was forced to lie on his stomach in the back of a people carrier for the journey back to his hotel. In the privacy of his room he gently eased down his trousers and underpants and examined the four distinct burning lines of pain that adorned his buttocks, it would be a full day before his backside became less painful to touch.
The following day he had to work hard not to fidget sitting in the plane as the team flew home and it took another two days before he could sit without being reminded of that God-forsaken country.
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More stories from Charles Hamilton II are on the MMSA website
Charles Hamilton the Second