Cape Town - If you didn’t know they were prisoners, you could be forgiven for thinking these well-dressed men and women with the mad word skills were ordinary citizens having a good old spelling bee.
Among the 140 inmates taking part in the 8th Regional Funda Mzantsi Regional Championships at Pollsmoor Prison was none other than convicted baby killer, Dina Rodrigues.
Prisoners from Southern Cape, Breede Valley, Drakenstein, Overberg, Voorberg, Allandale, Ceres, Helderstroom, Malmesbury, Brandvlei and Pollsmoor went up against one another in the literary competition.
The participants, who all belong to book clubs at their various prisons, had to do a book review, debate, read and spell, and they only had three minutes each to impress a panel of judges.
The prisoners were dressed to impress and there was no sign of the traditional orange prison overalls.
The Southern Cape group looked like the Springbok rugby team with their green blazers and beige pants.
Members from Drakenstein looked smart in their black suits, red shirts and black ties, while Pollsmoor se prisoners were dressed in their tracksuits.
Rodrigues and her posse from the Breede Valley Correctional Facility turned heads in their tight-fitting black pants and white blouses.
Their hair was straightened, they all wore make-up and someone remarked they looked like the Kardashians in their stiletto heels.
Rodrigues is serving a life sentence after being convicted in 2007 of hiring men to kill her boyfriend’s six-month-old baby, Jordan-Leigh Norton, in 2005.
The 35-year-old, who has not lost any of her good looks after 10 years in prison, refused to speak to the media.
In 2012, she completed her degree in education - and became a teacher at the Worcester Prison.
And in the following year, Rodrigues was one of 159 inmates who graduated from a computer literacy and life skills programme at Pollsmoor Prison.
Representing the Southern Cape, Mpumelelo Ngondo, 24, impressed the crowd with his English review of the local book, Pavement Bookworm.
Ngondo is doing time for robbery, theft and assault.
He told the Daily Voice: “I dropped out of school in Grade 10, but now I can confidently say I will be completing my schooling next year.”
Nomawethu Xhego, 30, representing Pollsmoor, said she only joined the book club last week and it was a battle to multi-task as she had to study for her business management test, prepare her isiXhosa book review and look after her baby.
Only 30 prisoners will make it through to the national competition next month in George.
The winners will be announced on Thursday.