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South Africa, 1968. Twenty-five million blacks live under the domination of a minority of four million whites. Under the brutal Apartheid regime imposed by the National Party government, the blacks have no right to vote, to move about freely, to own land, businesses or even accommodation, and have no access to education. Determined to keep their hold on power, the whites have put a ban on all opposition groups, associations or demonstrations; they force black leaders into exile or imprison them for life on Robben Island.
James Gregory, a typical white Afrikaner, considers blacks to be subhuman. He grew up on a farm in the Transkei and therefore learnt to speak Xhosa at a young age. This makes him the ideal man to become the prison warden given the task of watching over Nelson Mandela and his comrades on Robben Island: he speaks their language and can spy on them without their knowing. This plan will backfire, however, for those who set it up. As he gets closer to Mandela, Gregory begins to question the Apartheid system and progressively becomes a champion for a free and democratic South Africa.
Goodbye Bafana tells the tale of the relationship, as surprising as it is deep, that forms between the two men. Through their unique friendship, we discover the awakening of a conscience.