Sizwe Bansi Is Dead opens in the photography studio of a man named Styles. The studio is located in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. After reading a newspaper article on an automobile plant, Styles tells a humorous story to the audience about an incident that occurred when he worked at Ford Motor Company.
Styles continues to read the paper and talks about his photography studio. His musings are interrupted when a customer, Sizwe Bansi, arrives. Sizwe asks to have his picture taken, but when Styles asks him for his deposit and name, Sizwe hesitates. Sizwe says his name is Robert Zwelinzima. Styles asks Sizwe what he will do with the photo, and Sizwe tells him he will send it to his wife. When the picture is taken, the moment is frozen into what the photograph will look like. It comes to life and Sizwe dictates the letter to his wife that will accompany the photo.
In the letter, Sizwe tells his wife that Sizwe Bansi is dead. He writes that when he arrived in Port Elizabeth from their home in King William’s Town, he stayed with a friend named Zola who tried to help Sizwe find a job. His employment search was unsuccessful; as a result, he was told by the authorities that he must leave in three days. Sizwe went to stay with Zola’s friend, Buntu.
Sizwe Bansi Is Dead returns to present time. Staying at Buntu’s house, Sizwe tells Buntu about his problems—unless a miracle happens, he will have to leave town...
(The entire section is 542 words.)