Sizwe Bansi's entire problem, and the reason that he decides to take on the identity of a dead man, is based on the despicable legislation that formed part of the framework of South Africa's Apartheid system, which was in full swing when this play made its debut in 1972.
The Pass Laws, which were in place at the time, made it illegal for black people to be in certain areas unless they had documentation stating that they had a good reason to be there.
This is why, when Sizwe comes across Robert Zwelinzima's body—and his work-seeker's permit—that he decides to assume the dead man's identity in spite of his misgivings. Having this documentation would open up new avenues of possibility for him, and opportunities for employment that did not mean facing the danger of going to work in the mines.
Sizwe Banzi is Dead is a critically-acclaimed South African play co-written by Athol Fugard , John Kani, and Winston Ntshona. Kani and Ntshona are also the main characters in the play, which was first...
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