Trib­ute to lens­man who cap­tured iconic photo


LEG­ENDARY pho­to­jour­nal­ist Sam Nz­ima’s fam­ily are happy that the govern­ment did not wait un­til his death be­fore hon­our­ing him.

His son, Thu­lani Nz­ima, told a me­mo­rial ser­vice yes­ter­day the lens­man – fa­mous for the iconic pho­to­graph of dy­ing school­boy Hec­tor Pi­eter­son in 1976 – died just when he was due to move into a house built for him by the Mpumalanga govern­ment.

“(For­mer premier) DD Mabuza built a de­cent house for Sam Nz­ima,” Thu­lani said.

“Sam was pre­par­ing to move into the house last Thurs­day af­ter re­ceiv­ing the keys. While he was busy sort­ing out the keys, he col­lapsed be­fore he could take oc­cu­pa­tion of his new house.

“That is the sad part. But as I speak to you now, all of us are gathered at Sam’s new home,” Thu­lani added.

The me­mo­rial ser­vice, which Thu­lani ad­dressed via tele­con­fer­ence, was held in Park­town, Joburg.

Vet­eran jour­nal­ists paid homage to their for­mer col­league, with some re­flect­ing on the price many of them paid for re­port­ing on the apartheid govern­ment.

Thu­lani told them that a leg- acy mu­seum and cul­tural vil­lage in his fa­ther’s mem­ory was in the pipe­line.

It was to be built on 3 hectares of land ad­ja­cent to his new home.

It is also his gravesite, which made it a mon­u­ment, Thu­lani told mourn­ers.

“The govern­ment of Mpumalanga and the na­tional govern­ment are right be­hind this project.

“When you see such ac­tiv­i­ties happening, do not in­ter­pret it as a re­sponse from the govern­ment only now that Sam Nz­ima is no more…

“The Mpumalanga govern­ment has reached out to Sam in a big way,” he said.

Nz­ima will be buried at a spe­cial provin­cial funeral‚ the Pres­i­dency an­nounced on Wed­nes­day.

He died over the week­end in Mpumalanga at the age of 83.

As a pho­to­jour­nal­ist at The World news­pa­per in 1976, Nz­ima cap­tured a cry­ing Mbuy­isa Makhubu and An­toinette Sit­hole car­ry­ing a fa­tally wounded Hec­tor, 12, to a car.

The pic­ture be­came a ma­jor sym­bol of the Strug­gle against apartheid.

Nz­ima paid a heavy price for this photo. Af­ter it was pub­lished, he was forced to re­sign from his job and flee Joburg.

The apartheid regime even- tu­ally de­tained and placed him un­der house ar­rest for 19 months in Li­ly­dale, Mpumalanga.

Suzette Ma­funa, Nz­ima’s for­mer col­league, said the Hec­tor photo fu­elled global anger against apartheid.

Her homage to Nz­ima was read out in a let­ter she penned from Toronto, Canada. Ma­funa re­mem­bered the pho­to­jour­nal­ist as “al­ways be­ing kind, gen­tle and charm­ing”.

“Sam sim­ply fo­cused on pro­duc­ing the best work pos­si­ble,” she said.

Pearl Luthuli, who met Nz­ima in 1974 when she joined The World, said the lens­man’s pass­ing was a re­minder that many jour­nal­ists had not been recog­nised for the role they played in the Strug­gle against apartheid.

“In those days ev­ery jour­nal­ist was an ac­tivist,” she said.

“We were forced to be­come po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists. Many jour­nal­ists in those days sac­ri­ficed their lives and their fam­i­lies.”

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and aca­demic So­madoda Fikeni, who was Nz­ima’s friend, said the free­dom that Nz­ima paid a price for should be pro­tected.

“The free­dom we en­joy to­day was not cheap. It came at a cost.

“But some of the lead­ers to­day have put the same free­dom on auc­tion sale at a clear­ance price.”

Im­age of a dy­ing Hec­tor Pi­eter­son showed the Strug­gle against apartheid bru­tal­ity to the world

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