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A Common Purpose the Story of the Upington 25. (Books Reviews).

BY ANDREA DURBACH $26.95 CONTINUUM (USA) ISBN 0-8264-1330-7In the early morning of November 13 1985,...

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A Common Purpose the Story of the Upington 25. (Books Reviews).

  1. 1. A Common Purpose the Story of the Upington 25. (Books Reviews). BY ANDREA DURBACH $26.95 CONTINUUM (USA) ISBN 0-8264-1330-7 In the early morning of November 13 1985, a murder took place in the black township of Paballelo on the outskirts of Upington in South Africa's Northern State province. The murder victim was Lucas Tshenolo 'Jetta' Sethwala, a municipal policeman who was beaten to death and his body burned. It seems that Sethwala had fired a shot from his house into a crowd that had gathered outside his home, seriously injuring a young boy, Dawid Visagie. When Sethwala attempted to flee his home he was caught, pulled to the ground, struck twice on his head with his own rifle, kicked, stoned and his body set alight with petrol. On the basis of eye-witnesses and identification parades, the South African police accused 25 black citizens of the murder, from teenage boys to an elderly couple. Each of the accused was charged with murder on the basis of 'common purpose'. After a two year trial, the Upington 25 were convicted of murder and a year later 14 of them were sentenced to death. The author, Andrea Durbach, was a member of the legal team that took on the case of the Upington 25 following their conviction. As they had not represented the accused during the original trial, they had the
  2. 2. daunting task, in a few short weeks, to sort through thousands of court documents, interview the imprisoned, take additional statements, find expert witnesses and research judicial precedent to be able to mount an effective appeal. MACABRE LEGAL DANCE There were also certain ironies during this macabre legal dance. Political developments within the country threw up a huge dilemma for the defence team. The Pretoria Minute, negotiated between the ANC and the South African government had included a provision that the ANC would suspend the armed struggle. It also allowed for submissions to be made for the indemnity or release of prisoners convicted of a political offence. In bringing a charge against the Upington 25, the state had argued that the murder of Sethwala was not a 'spontaneous isolated outburst' but an orchestrated incident linked to a plan aimed at making the country ungovernable. Now the defence team was faced with a choice-they could continue to argue that the murder of Sethwala was spontaneous, or make the counter argument and apply for indemnity on the basis of the murder being a political act. Their decision was to do both and compromise neither. Even if the legal team was ultimately successful in saving the 14 from Death Row, there is little note of triumphalism in Durbach's
  3. 3. book. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/A%2BCommon%2BPurpose%2Bthe%2BStory%2Bof%2Bthe%2BUping ton%2B25.%2B(Books%2BReviews).-a0101291148