Few, if any, people who read this newspaper will have heard of a man called Saxon Kukuthulakwamadoda Dlamini, but the story of his life and death is worth telling for it explains something of why President Cyril Ramaphosa is treading so cautiously in KwaZulu-Natal. Long ago, in another lifetime, Dlamini earned a living as a hitman. In the early 1990s, in the midst of the civil war in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, his boss was Sifiso Nkabinde, the notorious warlord from Richmond. Just as the conflict was ending Dlamini was convicted of a double murder, which he had committed on Nkabinde’s behalf, and was sentenced to life. Dlamini served much of his sentence in Leeukop Prison outside Johannesburg. By the time he was released on parole in 2016 he was a much-loved man among the prison’s inmates. He was famous for his charisma, his warmth and his courage; on several occasions he put his life on the line when mediating between rival gangs. I know this because a research project led me to i...

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