After his conviction on Friday for the negligent killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius’s next battle will be to stay outside the walls of the notorious Pretoria Central Prison, or C-Max.
The prison, a forbidding brick and steel edifice with a reputation as the toughest in South Africa, is just a stone’s throw from the High Court where Pistorius’s six-month trial ended with not guilty verdicts on murder charges that carried certain jail terms.
His conviction for culpable homicide attracts a maximum 15-year sentence but there is no minimum, and his defence team will argue that a man with no previous convictions should not end up in C-Max, where dozens of political dissidents were detained and executed by the white-minority regime that ran South Africa until 1994.
South Africa abolished the death penalty shortly after Nelson Mandela became its first black president, and the gallows and its execution wing - dubbed “The Pot” - are now a museum to the atrocities of apartheid.
But the prison’s reputation remains undimmed as the worst place in the land - the permanent, overcrowded home of armed robbers, rapists and murderers, plagued by gang violence and mental and physical abuse.
“When you arrive, the big gangs make their move on you. They have knives and razor blades. Some even carry guns,” said Serge Christiano, an Angolan who spent time inC-Max during seven years awaiting trial for attempted murder and armed robbery.