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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 14:30 GMT
SA 'people's poet' free from jail
Mzwakhe Mbuli (pic Mzwakhe Campaign)
Mzwakhe is a popular musician and poet in South Africa
The poet who performed a traditional praise poem at the presidential inauguration of Nelson Mandela a decade ago has been released from jail.

Mzwakhe Mbuli, one of South Africa's most popular artists, emerged from prison to enthusiastic applause saying: "God sustained. I am unsinkable."

He was sentenced to 13 years in jail for a 1997 bank robbery but claims a bag was planted in his car.

He says he was framed because he knew of drug smuggling among top officials.

Greeting

One of the many people waiting to greet Mbuli at the gates of Leeuwkop prison was veteran anti-apartheid politician and human rights activist Helen Suzman, who petitioned the justice department on Mbuli's behalf.

So too was Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who often shared a platform with him during the anti-apartheid struggle days when he was still building his reputation as the voice of the masses, a poet for the people's liberation.

Throughout his jail term, Mbuli proclaimed his innocence.

The BBC's Carolyn Dempster says much of the evidence used to convict him of armed robbery on a bank in Pretoria was circumstantial.

His uncle, Elliott, who continued to believe in Mzwakhe's innocence said there was no need for him to have stolen 15,000 rand ($2000) from a bank.

It was the sort of amount the poet used to regularly hand out to the poor, he said.

After a brief address to the crowd, Mbuli was whisked away in a luxury car for a celebratory performance with South African musicians in nearby Johannesburg.




SEE ALSO:
Prison for 'people's poet'
22 Apr 99  |  Africa
Country profile: South Africa
08 Nov 03  |  Country profiles


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