tronk, noun

Formerly also tronck.
South African Dutch, Dutch, Portuguese, Buganese, Sunda, BaliShow more South African Dutch (possibly in earlier use in other Dutch colonies), perhaps adaptation of Portuguese tronco trunk, stock (of a tree), the stocks, by extension ‘prison’ (the etymology given in OED), or adaptation of Buganese and Sunda (a dialect of Bali) tarunka prison.
Mansvelt (in his Idioticon, 1884) suggests that the word might be derived from French tronc a box, or from Persian turang a prison. Pettman (1913) suggests Malay trungku ‘to imprison’ as the source, and Bense (1939) agrees, referring to quotation 1693 below, and suggesting that ‘the word was borrowed by the Dutch from Malay in the form trunk, and introduced, not only into the English colonies on the Coromandel Coast,..but also into South Africa at the time of van Riebeeck. The form may then have become tronk under the influence of the above-mentioned Portuguese or French words, if not under that of European Dutch tronk in the sense of Latin truncus’ (i.e. tree trunk). While the Malay word for ‘prison’ is panjara, in Buganese and Sunda tarunka is used, and ‘the word tronk could thus have come into Afrikaans through the Buganese or Balian slaves’ (A. Davids, ‘Words the Cape slaves made’, South African Journal of Linguistics, Vol.8 No.1, 1990).
a. colloquial. Prison; trunk. Also attributive.
[1693 Govt Rec. Fort St. George (Madras)The justices..committed him to the Custody of the Tailliars in the Trunke, but on the 21 September last, he made his escape by breaking through the Prison wall.]
1988 Saturday Star 28 May 36The Immorality Act (remember?) would encourage the fuzz through curtains ajar and test the warmth of the bedsheets before clapping the loving sinners into the nearest tronk.
b. combinations
tronkvoël /-fʊəl/ [Afrikaans, voël bird], ‘gaol-bird’;
tronk volk /- fɔlk/ [Afrikaans, volk people], former prison inmates.
1973 Contrast 32 Vol.8 No.4, 23He looked like..a thug, a real tronkvoël.
1937 F.B. Young They Seek a Country 408Missionary boys perhaps, but tronk-volk, jail-birds for certain.
Prison; trunk. Also attributive.

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