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Sam Nzima lived in troubled times. As a photojournalist for The World newspaper, he covered many conflict situations through the apartheid years in South Africa but it was in 1976, and during the anti-Afrikaans Soweto uprising that thrust him into the spotlight with his photograph of a mortally wounded 12-year old boy being carried away by a teenager with his hysterical step-sister running alongside. The young boy was Hector Pieterson and he was to die from a stray bullet, fired by a policeman into the thick of the stampeding crowds. And it was Sam Nzima’s one unsparing picture that brought home the reality of the situation to the entire world.
Two blocks away from where the incident occurred is the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum, opened on the 16 June 2002, exactly 16 years after the event, to commemorate his death and other youths that suffered the same fate during the uprising. The museum is a national heritage site and a place of reflection. There is a garden of remembrance with names of those that died inscribed on bricks and a wall marking the spot where the clashes took place between the police and students. According to reports, Hector was too young to participate (he was close to reaching his 13th birthday at the time) and was standing to one side watching the clashes when he was shot.
Hector Pieterson’s step-sister Antoinette Sithole, who was 16 at the time of the incident and appears in Nzima’s photograph, was for a time employed as a tour guide at the museum, however, she has moved on but is available for private consultations. The boy who tried to save Hector by picking him up and placing him in a journalist’s vehicle is Mbuyisa Makhubo, last believed to be living in Nigeria.