Chapter 28 Summary

In the courtroom on the final day of the trial, everyone stands up respectfully as the judge enters. The crowd is even quieter than usual. There is an expectant feeling in the air as everyone awaits the verdict. Solemnly, the judge unfolds a prepared statement. He reads in English, and an interpreter translates his words into Zulu so everyone present can understand.

At the beginning of his statement, the judge notes that Absalom Kumalo has admitted to shooting Arthur Jarvis. Absalom has clearly been truthful about his own actions, but the other accused young men have contested his claim that they were his accomplices. The judge outlines all the facts he has heard about the matter, and he ultimately says that it is not absolutely certain that Matthew Kumalo and Johannes Pafuri participated in the crime.

Next, the judge outlines the details of Absalom’s case. After acknowledging the defending lawyer’s argument that the young man’s crime did not constitute murder because he did not intend to kill, the judge declares the point incorrect. Even if Absalom did not actually want to kill anyone, he did purposely decide to carry a murder weapon onto the scene of a crime. Absalom understood that his gun could kill someone, and he used it anyway. In the judge’s opinion, Absalom’s actions can legally be considered intent to kill.

As he continues his arguments, the judge notes that the defense is correct in his arguments that South Africa’s society failed Absalom by refusing him opportunities. This problem is very real, and it does indeed contribute to crimes like the one Absalom committed.

In the end, the judge asks the defendants to stand. He formally pronounces Absalom’s two friends not guilty, and everyone watches as they get up to leave. Then the judge pronounces Absalom guilty and sentences him to death by hanging.

Absalom falls down on the floor sobbing. A few members of the audience—some on the black side and some on the white—gasp or cry, too. Normally outbursts are not tolerated in the presence of the judge, but today the grieving spectators are left alone.

As everyone files out of the courtroom, the white reformatory director crosses from the white side of the room to the black side. This is a breach in custom, and it is difficult to do, but he does it anyway. He and Msimangu both help Kumalo, letting the old man lean on them as they make their way out.