Full Summary and Analysis of Oswald Mitshali’s “Nightfall in Soweto”

This post carries out a good full summary and analysis of Oswald Mitshali’s “Nightfall in Soweto.” Thus, this post gives a full analysis and summary of the poem. You can read this to be able to grasp the poem better as you study it for your assignment or exam.

Biography of Oswald Mitshali

Oswald Mitshali was born and brought up in South Africa at the time the apartheid system had taken deep roots into the country. He was passionate about education, and wanted to attend college. However, due to the limitations at those times, he could not.

He was born in Vryheid, Natal. Then realizing that his birth area won’t help him achieve his dream of going further in education, he moved to Johannesburg. Due to the limitations the apartheid system placed on the coloreds, his education dream could not be achieved as he was denied admission.

Oswald Mitshali settled in Soweto. Through his activism, and the political struggle for the liberalization of the country, he gained admission to study in the US. It was in the US he lived for most of the remainder of his life, writing and lecturing.

Background of the Poem

At the time and point this poem was published, South Africa was still undergoing a harsh administrative pattern of the apartheid system. What is the apartheid system? This apartheid system was an institutionalized racism promoted by the South African government.

In this system, the white people were regarded as superior to the other races. There were different schools, buses, residential areas, public facilities, and others for different races. At most points, the coloreds were regarded as inferior and lived in poorer areas, assessed poorer public facilities, and were denied economic rights.

This affected the colored South Africans, especially the blacks, who were the rel owners of the lands. They were also denied access to their lands. Poverty and lack of development were rife.

SOWETO where Oswald lives, and where this poem narrates about, is the slum area reserved for the blacks and some other coloreds. While the whites live in highbrow areas in Johannesburg, the black live in a slum without basic amenities. They are also hunted at night by their oppressors (the white). SOWETO means South-West Township.

Full Summary and Analysis of Oswald Mitshali’s “Nightfall in Soweto”

The persona begins the poem by writing about the dreadful nightfall in Soweto. The residents of Soweto dread the coming of the nightfall. To show the extent that nightfall is hated, the persona uses some qualifiers to describe it like “a murderer’s hand,” “a dagger,” “slaughter,” “fear,” “anguish,” and so many others.

The persona speaks on behalf of the oppressed. He states that he is the prey of “the beast,” running away from the cage of death. Nowhere is safe in Soweto. There is so much trembling in the area. Everyone holds their hearts in fear.

No one knows who would be next in the brutality to be meted out on the people. It is where the persona is hiding and trembling that his door is forcefully opened or asked to be opened up. These beasts hunt for people, and are simply passionate about drawing blood.

Themes in Oswald Mitshali’s “Nightfall in Soweto”

Racism: The predominant theme in the poem is racism. The persona and the other colored people in Soweto are maltreated and brutalized that they are constantly scared of nightfall because of racism. Thus, they are considered the inferior race that are to be maltreated and subjugated.

Fear and Brutality: Due to the institutionalized racism in the country, and how it affects the people who live in South Africa, there is constant fear, and brutality meted out to the colored people. The black neighborhoods are always terrorized by this marauding beasts.

Poverty and Lack of Development: Since the economic rights of the colored people are taken away from them, there is widespread poverty and lack of development among the colored people. They live in slums, cannot afford more than their basic needs, and they are denied access to facilities and opportunities to advance themselves economically.

Figures of Speech in Oswald Mitshali’s “Nightfall in Soweto”

There are some figures of speech and sound devices employed in the poem to make it complete in all ways as a poem. Some of these are:

Simile: “Nightfall comes like a dreaded disease …,” and “Open up! He barks like a rabid dog.”

Paradox: “Man has ceased to be man/Man has become a beast/Man has become a prey.”

Sound Devices

Alliteration: “Man has ceased to be man”

Consonance: “Nightfall! Nightfall!”

Repetition: Some words like “nightfall,” “man,” and others, are repeated to give emphasis to the subject matter of the poem.


This full summary and analysis of Oswald Mitshali’s “Nightfall in Soweto” will explain this poem better than any other one. We advise that as you are reading this analysis, you should also read the original contents of the poem to understand better. It will help you a lot in your examination. Success!

Don't miss out!
Get FREE Stories and Tips!

Get Good Intriguing Stories and LIFE HACK tips sent to your mail for FREE!

Invalid email address
Take action. We don't spam. You can always opt out.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: