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Singer-poet to Be Released From Questionable Prison Term

Parole for Mbuli

Having served hard time for a bank robbery he wasn't even tried for until almost a year and a half, apartheid-fighting South African singer-poet Mzwakhe Mbuli will be paroled no later than November 28, six years plus a month after his arrest. The case always looked fishy. Mbuli had already survived a murder or assassination attempt; surveillance cameras at the bank failed; two key witnesses tried to commit suicide, one successfully; in a transparent attempt to preempt bail, Mbuli was accused of two additional bank jobs, one of which took place while he was out of the country and neither of which was prosecuted further after he was speedily acquitted for one. Progressive Party heroine Helen Suzman was active on his defense committee, and in 2002 Nelson Mandela himself visited Mbuli in jail, where the poet had busied himself organizing holiday concerts inside and outside, leading a choir, and counseling other prisoners, with special attention to HIV and AIDS prevention. All appeals by a distinguished volunteer defense team were denied. Instead, Mbuli's 13-year sentence was reduced for good behavior. He was temporarily released for two days on August 1, his 44th birthday. Efforts on his behalf have switched toward obtaining a presidential pardon, without which Mbuli's movements will be greatly restricted after he leaves prison.

Send respectful letters requesting a pardon to South African president Thabo Mbeki at president@po.gov.za. And while you're at it, visit wm3.org and see what you can do about freeing the West Memphis 3.

Village Voice, Sept. 2, 2003