|Monday, 20 October 2008 19:39|
Died: 16 June 1976, Soweto
Cause of death: Gunshot wounds.
Notable because: The first child to be photographed dying during the Soweto riots of 1976. Became a symbol of the freedom struggle.
Hector Pieterson became the iconic image of the 1976 Soweto uprising in apartheid South Africa when a news photograph by Sam Nzima of the dying Hector being carried by a fellow student, was published around the world. He was killed at the age of 12 when the police opened fire on protesting students. For years, June 16 stood as a symbol of resistance to the brutality of the apartheid government. Today, it is known as National Youth Day — a day on which South Africans honour young people and bring attention to their needs.
On 16 June 1976, school children protested over the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in township the children to disperse. They started singing Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika and before they could be dispersed, police opened fire.
There are conflicting accounts of who gave the first command to shoot, but soon children were turning and running in all directions, leaving some children lying wounded on the road.
Although the media often named Hector as the first child to die that fateful day, another boy, Hastings Ndlovu, was actually the first child to be shot. But in the case of Hastings, there were no photographers on the scene, and his name never became famous.
When Hector was shot and fell on the corner of Moema and Vilakazi Streets, he was picked up by Mbuyisa Makhubo (an 18 year old schoolboy) who together with Hector's sister, Antoinette (then 17 years old), ran towards Sam Nzima's press car. They bundled him in, and the journalist Sophie Tema drove him to a nearby clinic where he was pronounced dead. Mbuyisa and Nzima were harassed by the police after the incident and both went into hiding. Mbuyisa's mother told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that she received a letter from Mbuyisa in 1978 from Nigeria but she has not heard from him since.Hector and Hastings Ndlovu are buried at the Avalon Cemetery, Soweto.
Since June 1976, Hector's surname has been spelled Peterson and Pietersen by the press but the family insists that the correct spelling is Pieterson. The Pieterson family was originally the Pitso family but decided to adopt the Pieterson name to try to pass as "Coloured" (the apartheid-era name for people of mixed race), because Coloured people enjoyed somewhat better privileges under apartheid than blacks did.
On 9 August 2002 U.S. lawyer Ed Fagan led a $50bn class action suit by apartheid-era victims against international firms and banks who profited from dealings with the Apartheid regime. Among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is Dorothy Molefi, Hector's mother. The South African government as well as Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki and Desmond Tutu have distanced themselves from the lawsuit.
On June 16, 2002 the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum was opened near the place he was shot in Orlando West, Soweto to honour Hector and those who died around the country in the 1976 uprising. Funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (R16-million) and the Johannesburg City Council (R7,2 million), it has become a major tourist attraction. The start of the museum begins with pictures of Hector Pierterson's death. The museum fuses memorabilia with modern technology and cultural history. In 2007 Hector's sister Antoinette, who is seen in the famous photograph, was working at the museum as a tour guide.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2008 15:50|