GLW: website for imprisoned People's Poet -- Mzwakhe Mbuli

Green Left Parramatta glparramatta at
Wed Aug 11 11:25:59 MDT 1999

The following article appears in the latest
issue of Green Left Weekly #371, August 11, 1999
Australia's radical newspaper.


 Web site launched for imprisoned South African poet

 By Norm Dixon

 The Campaign for the Release of Mzwakhe Mbuli has a launched a
 web site to publicise the case the renowned artist. Mbuli is
 known as South Africa's ``people's poet'' for his daring
 appearances during the apartheid struggle. The site is at
 <>. It contains background information and
 an on-line petition calling for Mbuli's release.

 Mbuli is incarcerated at Pretoria Maximum Security Prison after
 being framed on charges of armed robbery and possession of a hand
 grenade. Mbuli was convicted on March 29 and sentenced to 13

 The prosecution's case relied entirely on circumstantial
 evidence. The court ignored Mbuli's defence that he was framed by
 vengeful police and corrupt politicians who feared Mbuli would
 disclose information about their activities that had come into
 his possession.

 Shortly after sentencing, he was transferred to maximum security,
 where he is subject to an abnormal level of restrictions -- more
 severe than prisoners with sentences as long as 200 years. Apart
 from the punitive treatment directed toward Mbuli, conditions for
 all prisoners at the prison are horrible.

 Mbuli was a thorn in the side of the apartheid security
 establishment. He became a township legend in the 1980s when,
 while on the run from the security forces, he would appear from
 nowhere, recite revolutionary poetry at the funerals of freedom
 fighters and then melt away. These appearances severely
 embarrassed the cops. When he was finally apprehended by the
 apartheid regime, he was jailed and tortured. He held in solitary
 confinement for 176 days and then released without charges being
 brought against him.

 The record of the South African Police shows that they stop at
 nothing to neutralise their opponents -- frame-ups are just part
 of a day's work. It seems those days are not over in the ``new''
 South Africa.

 Mbuli, the beloved people's poet and hero, is not allowed to have
 food brought to him from outside, which is customary in South
 Africa for prisoners. He is allowed only one visitor, one phone
 call and one letter received each month. He is to be forced to do
 hard labour.

 It is suspected that this harsh treatment is due to Mbuli's
 having spoken out about the poor conditions that prisoners face,
 such as the lack of a consistent supply of clean drinking water,
 numerous health problems including scabies, and black prisoners
 routinely being brought in with bites from police dogs.

 Supporters and friends of Mbuli are being targeted. Writers in
 the US who have spoken out against the poet's treatment have
 found that mail from them to Mbuli, as well as mail sent from
 South Africa to them, has been tampered with while in the care of
 the South African Postal Service. A complaint regarding these
 incidents has been lodged with the South African Embassy in

 People wanting to express concern about Mbuli's treatment and
 call for his release should write to the South African President
 Thabo Mbeki at <president at> and forward copies to
 Amnesty International at <amnestyis at>. The Campaign
 for Release of Mzwakhe Mbuli can be contacted at
 <Mzwakhe4u at> or write to PO Box 390058, Cambridge, MA
 02139, USA.

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