The summary of how things develop in Sizwe Banzi Is Dead starts with Sizwe being unable to find work in Port Elizabeth and therefore being ordered by the government authorities to return to his home in King William's Town. Sizwe's friend, Buntu, who is giving him shelter, takes him to a bar for a treat to help free his mind of his worries. It is when they leave to go home that they come upon the body of a dead man in an alley. Buntu convinces Sizwe not to notify the police suggesting that Sizwe take the man's identity book, which has in it a work-seeker's permit, which is the very permit that Sizwe needs to remain in Port Elizabeth to find work. The two men decide the identity book and permit will do more good for Sizwe than for the dead man. They burn Sizwe's identity book after first gluing Sizwe's picture in Robert Zwelinzima's book, for that was the dead man's name. Buntu convinces Sizwe that he can remarry his wife under the name of Robert, so he needn't worry about her and the children. The play opens out of chronological order showing what happens after these events have all past. In the opening, Sizwe, now Robert, goes to the portrait studio owned by Styles, has his picture taken, has a letter to his wife written saying Sizwe Banzi is dead, and sends both the picture of himself and the letter to his wife (she'll see he is alive). The play ends by leaving the flashbacks and returning to the opening scene: Sizwe, now Robert, is finishing with getting his picture taken.