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Santa Cruz Indymedia

LOCAL Announcement :: Police State

Duma Kumalo, one of the “Sharpeville Six? at UCSC (9/22)

Thursday, September 22nd
College 10 Café Revolucion
Duma Kumalo
Duma Kumalo, one of the “Sharpeville Six?, was wrongfully imprisoned in 1985 in apartheid South Africa, for a murder he did not commit. He spent 7 years in prison, with 3 of those on death row. Some 15 hours before he was to be executed, his neck had already been measured for the size of the rope and he had been given his final meal, he was reprieved. It was only this year in August, 10 years after the first democratic elections in South Africa, that Duma’s criminal record was officially erased. He received a Presidential Pardon and was finally issued a visa to visit the United States for a conference in New York this September and to visit our campus.

Duma, who now works with the Khulumani Support Group for victims of apartheid violence in Johannesburg, South Africa, will visit UCSC from September 20-24th and looks forward to meeting with faculty and students while he is here. We realize this is unfortunate timing as classes start this week ­ but we hope you and others will attend the public event listed below:

On Thursday September 22nd at 5pm Duma will give a talk - and perhaps if we are so fortunate present excerpts from a play - about his experience during apartheid, on death row, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and about his life in South Africa now.

Come and hear his story.

For any questions or disability concerns, please email Catherine Byrne at cbyrne (at)


Duma Kumalo

As one of the Sharpville Six, Duma Kumalo was wrongly imprisoned in 1985 for a murder he didn’t commit. He spent seven years in prison, with three of those on death row. He now works for Khulumani – a support group for victims based in Johannesburg.

At the beginning of it all I’d often ask myself, “Why me?? But later I’d say to myself, “If not me, then who? If I’m not supposed to die for the liberation of South Africa, then who is??

In 1985 I was found guilty, along with five others, for the murder of a counsellor during a rent boycott in Sharpville. I wasn’t even there when the counsellor was killed. In prison I was a dead man walking. I lived next to a grave, watching others being called to execution. Before an execution a prisoner would be given a whole chicken to eat as his last meal. But having no appetite he often gave it to his starving friends. The bond between prisoners was very strong. These kinds of friendship are impossible to make in the outside world.

One Monday in 1988 we were told we’d be hanged the following Friday. Even though I knew there was international outcry, I had no hope of a reprieve. My neck was measured for the size of the rope. They took my underwear, my shoes and my mattress so that I couldn’t commit suicide. On the Thursday before the execution they brought us our chicken, but then, just before 4pm, we were told we wouldn’t be executed after all. When we went back to our cells the chicken was still waiting there. The others chucked theirs away, out of superstition. But I ate mine. I was bloody starving!

Since my release I’ve been fighting to clear my name and get a retrial. This is the only thing that will bring me peace. In the meantime I work to support others in pain. Having been saved myself I feel I must do my best to save others.

When I testified at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), I met one of the warders who had been my guard on death row. Seeing me he rushed over and gave me a hug. He said to me, “Our wives had no idea of the kind of work we did. We were too ashamed to tell them.? I told a lie during the TRC hearing. When they asked me if he was the guard who’d mistreated me, I said no. After the hearing I went home and said to myself, “Are you mad? How can you let this man off the hook?? Then I realised, if I’d implicated him it would have sent us all back to the execution chamber.

Primo Levi once wrote: “I don’t want to be like them. I don’t hate them.? It’s a wonderful and powerful statement.

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