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For All Nails #51H: Victoria's Secret (Part 8)

by Jonathan Edelstein

Magistrate's Court
Nairobi, Victoria
30 April 1973

"Please pull up right there, outside the front entrance."

The words felt strange in Victoria Madoka's mouth. She had never imagined that she might need to hire a loke and driver; nevertheless, there could be no question of taking the Underground to the courthouse today. The building was surrounded with journalists and curious onlookers; left to her own devices, she doubted that she would even reach the front door.

She had been besieged for days with interview requests from the domestic and foreign press; somehow, she had found the time to grant most of them. Fortunately, she had managed to adjourn most of her court appearances in preparation for trial, keeping her need to venture from her flat to a minimum. Just as fortunately, this was not a case that required much preparation. She had said exactly what the prosecution accused her of saying; the only thing to be decided was whether her words posed a danger to the state. There was no need to search for documents or canvass witnesses. She could prepare her arguments in the sanctuary of her home -- at least when she wasn't answering reporters' telephone calls.

Even telephone interviews, of course, did not satisfy the press; they only kept it at bay for a while. The cameras were out in force today; the reporters had no intention of missing her grand entrance at the opening of the trial. As the loke pulled up to the entrance, Madoka could see the insignia of vitavision stations from around the world - Germany, North America, even Mexico. They hadn't sent cub reporters, either; she thought she recognized Theresa Gugliano from NCCC standing next to that old rogue Anand Rajaram. A thought occurred to her, and she made a mental note to arrange a meeting with Rajaram later; in the meantime, there was no use waiting any longer. She took a deep breath and stepped out of the loke.

She was, she admitted, quite a fashionable figure. Under most circumstances, she dressed to draw attention away from herself rather than the reverse; she wanted the jury to focus on her arguments rather than her appearance, and she didn't want to risk prejudicing white jurors or judges by appearing to dress above her station. This time, however, she was appearing as defendant rather than attorney, and she had a very specific statement to make with her clothing. The world would be watching this case, and she wanted them to see exactly who the government was attempting to repress -- she wanted them to see a woman as successful and sophisticated as any Mexican senator or stylish North American lady.

So she wore a forest-green, above-the-knee tailored dress of the style favored by Nairobi's leading hostesses, accented with a single strand of pearls and black high heels. It was a fashion less suited to her than to women with husbands to earn a living and maids to do the housework, but she had to admit that it looked good on her.

Her arrival was greeted with the flash of camera bulbs and shouted questions from reporters. For a moment, she thought that the journalists might break through and block her way up the stairway, but the police guard kept the path to the door clear. She smiled at them -- and at the reporters, to let them know that it wasn't personal -- and walked in to face her day in court.

Kibera, Victoria
1 May 1973

"So what did you think?" Victoria asked.

"I must say," answered Anand Rajaram, "that I've never seen a case before where it took two days to pick a jury."

"Neither have I, if that's any consolation to you." Jury selection in the Victorian courts was nearly always a process of a few minutes, or an hour at most, but Madoka's case was no more ordinary in this respect than in any other. Nearly all the prospective jurors had heard of the case, and most of them had firm opinions. The judge had granted one challenge for cause after another, and called for fresh panels no fewer than seven times. He had also given both Victoria and the prosecutor far more leeway to question the jurors than was usual, and had sometimes taken over the questioning himself. The twelfth juror hadn't been selected until two o'clock on the second day, and it had been a near-run thing as to whether a third day would be needed to pick the alternates.

Madoka didn't think she'd done badly. There were no blacks on the jury, of course; black citizens had the right to sit as jurors, but that right was mostly academic. Those few who hadn't been successfully challenged for cause had been eliminated using the prosecutor's peremptories. Fortunately, she'd been almost as successful at ferreting out the worst of the white racialists, despite the fact that they weren't instantly recognizable by their skin color. The foreman, Max Klein, seemed like a fair-minded and thoughtful man. So did most of the others, although she wasn't sure about the recent Esperançan immigrant, María Marques.

She cleared the thought from her mind as she returned her gaze to the Guardian reporter. "You're probably wondering why I invited you home."

"I suppose it was too much to expect that this would be a social call," Rajaram said. "Yes, I was wondering."

"I intend to offer you full access," Madoka began. "I will meet with you in private at your convenience, you may ask me anything you like, and everything I say will be on the record. I will reserve my right not to answer questions, but if I choose not to do so, I will be honest with you about the reason. What I ask in return..."

A child of six entered the room and pulled at Madoka's hand. "Aunt Victoria? May I have a glass of water?"

"Surely, Dorothy," Victoria answered, favoring the reporter with an embarrassed smile. "I'll be back to you in just a minute."

"Don't worry," Rajaram said. "I know a higher authority when I see one." He returned Madoka's smile as she accompanied Dorothy Ntimana into the kitchen.

Caring for children was something entirely new to Victoria, and something that had been thrust upon her with no preparation. Letitia Ntimana's son and daughter were well used to taking care of themselves, but by Victoria's standards they were far too young to be left alone. She had engaged a part-time caretaker, and she wasn't afraid to draw on the nanny's experience, but she was far too new a surrogate mother to be comfortable with her role.

And that was only the beginning of her worries. What, for instance, was she to do about their schooling? They'd never been to school, and she thought they ought to go, but how was she to enroll them when they weren't living with her legally? She tutored them at night when she had time, and she'd asked the nanny to teach them during the day, but she felt as inadequate to that task as to motherhood. Far better for the children to have their own mother back -- which brought her full circle to the reporter sitting in her parlor.

"You were about to name your price," he said as she returned from her mission.

"Yes," she answered. "There are two things I want you to do, actually. I have a friend named Letitia Ntimana, who was arrested after April fourth and is now being held at Nyeri prison camp. I want you to write an article about her -- front page -- and I want you to help me get in to see her..."

Opening Statements in State v. Madoka
Magistrate's Court
Nairobi, Victoria
2 May 1973

THE DEPUTY PUBLIC PROSECUTOR (MR. HODGES): ... Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. You are here today to decide an open and shut case. This is a case, ladies and gentlemen, that hardly requires a trial, and that can end with only one result.

The accused is charged with violating the Sedition Act 1912, by reason of speaking in favor of the Victoria National Congress at a public meeting. She has admitted, and I believe she will continue to admit, to making the statements charged in the indictment. That, I say to you, concludes this case.

I need hardly remind you, ladies and gentlemen, of what the Victoria National Congress is - an organization of black revolutionaries. Their goal is nothing less than the destruction of Victoria as we know it, and the way of life we hold dear. It is on the Attorney General's list of banned political organizations, and for a very good reason. This is the organization the accused is charged with supporting. The accused, ladies and gentlemen, is nothing less than a black revolutionary herself.

I put it to you that the accused is a danger to the state, and one that must be dealt with severely. Ladies and gentlemen, your task is to punish her as she deserves...

THE DEFENDANT: ... Ladies and gentlemen, the learned Public Prosecutor told you a great deal about this case earlier this morning, but he omitted one minor detail - not once during his opening did he mention my name. Since he didn't see fit to introduce me to you, I will introduce myself. My name is Victoria Madoka. My middle name is Mary, after my maternal grandmother.

Earlier, Mr. Hodges said that this was an open and shut case. In a sense, it is. There will be no dispute over the salient facts; I freely admit that I said everything I am accused of saying. In fact, I will say it again, here and now. I said that Victoria belongs to all its people, that it is the aim of the Victoria National Congress to make Victoria into a state of all its citizens, and that its candidates should be supported in the general election notwithstanding the Attorney General's ban. That was my statement, and I stand by it...

... I said just now that there would be no dispute about the salient facts of this case. I was wrong, because the intent of the speaker, and the circumstances of the speech, are very salient facts in a prosecution for sedition. These are not facts that can be determined as easily as whether the speech was made; indeed, they are facts that defy precise definition. Nevertheless, your task will be to find these facts, because there can be no sedition without a danger to the state.

What is sedition, ladies and gentlemen? At common law, a person was guilty of sedition if he advocated the overthrow of the state through unlawful means. We now have a Sedition Act, and the definition has changed slightly, but the foundation is still there. Mr. Hodges would have you believe that it is sedition simply to speak in favor of a party on the Attorney General's list. I say that his argument is supported by neither law nor sense.

Am I accused of attempting to overthrow the state? I certainly advocated changing the party in power, but that is no more than the Democrats or the Conservatives do every day. I did not advocate violence, or even a change in the form of our government; I called upon my audience to vote for members of Parliament, as they do every four years. Did that endanger the state? Is that sedition? I think that if it is, there will be precious little freedom of speech remaining in this country -- and I am speaking of your freedom of speech as well as mine...

... Ladies and gentlemen, the only fair verdict in this case, and the verdict I trust you will render, is a verdict of not guilty.

Forward to FAN #51I (2 May 1973): Victoria's Secret (Part 9).

Return to For All Nails.