Reon Schutte was held captive in a notorious Zimbabwe prison for 12 years and eight months. When he was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer during his internment he started off asking, “Why me?” Then came a day when he began to ask, “What for?” The “What for?” has become Schutte’s reason for living. He now spends his time exploring the world as a motivational speaker.
It’s been six years since Schutte was freed fromChikurubi, essentially a death camp near Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare, where only 10 percent of inmates survive their ordeal. It’s been even longer since he received his fatal cancer diagnosis. Schutte calls wherever he’s speaking his home. Now Schutte, 50, is on a speaking tour throughout Costa Rica.
He’s told his story more than 800 times now. Schutte remains awed by the reactions the story always receives. “For some reason, my story just resonates everywhere I go,” Schutte said. “From billionaires and millionaires to gangs and prisoners.”
Mistakes in his own life led Schutte to Chikurubi. At age 12, he joined a gang in Cape Town. Four years later, he was in prison for killing a police officer. In prison, he was offered a chance to join the South African army, which he did.At age 32, he was on a cross-border mission for the South African Defense Force, when Zimbabwean forces caught him. Thus began his 26-year prison sentence.
For more on this story, see the July 30 print or digital edition of The Tico Times