Larger than life photographer Nzima laid to rest

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sam Nzima, the photojournalist who shot the legendary photograph of a dying Hector Pieterson, has been described as a giant who told the story of South Africa’s liberation struggle.

“On behalf of The Presidency, we express our deepest condolences for the loss of Masana Sam Nzima, a giant photographer who through the lenses of his camera, told the story of our struggle for liberation,” said Deputy President David Mabuza.


Speaking at the Special Provincial Official Funeral for the late Nzima held in Lilydale Mpumalanga, the Deputy President said the people of Bushbuckridge and the entire country are mourning the passing of the recipient of the Order of Ikhamanga.

The respected photographer and struggle activist legendary photographer who took the world renowned Hector Peterson photo, passed away in hospital in Nelspruit on 12 May following a short illness.

“On 16 June 1976, the extent of inhumanness and brutality of apartheid was laid bare, with the photo that immortalised an 18-year-old Mbuyisa Makhubu carrying a lifeless body of a young Hector Pieterson. To this day, that iconic photo remains a reminder of our history,” said the Deputy President on Saturday.

Deputy President Mabuza said the captivating but also horrifying picture led to the world taking notice of the brutal killings that were taking place in apartheid South Africa.

The iconic photograph, he said, will remain embedded in the minds of South Africans and the world as part of Nzima’s legacy.

“Bab’Nzima belonged to a generation of fearless photojournalists who used the might of their lenses to expose the brutality of the nationalist party regime,” said the Deputy President, adding that other photo-journalists like Peter Magubane and Shadrack Nkomo also played the role of cultural and political activists.

South Africa through the June 1976 photograph has been able to tell her story using her own perspective and narrative.

Building social cohesion

The Deputy President urged South Africans to be inspired by the photograph in the quest for building social cohesion.

“We must continuously have conversation on how we forge ahead and overcome other national challenges without resorting to brutality.”

The image must also inspire the nation to focus more in the development of local content that promotes, debates and strengthens the sense of social and cultural identity.

“As we tell our stories, these must draw from our complex social and political history as well as our current cultural diversity.”

Looking after the creative arts

It is important, he said, as the country lays Nzima to rest, to do more to restore the dignity and humanity of photographers and many of those who have chosen the creative arts as their calling and vocation.

“Those whose vocation is to capture our history, interpret it, and offer us imaginative possibilities deserve all the support they need as we rebuild and unite our society from the ruins and divisions of the past.”

He said those in the creative arts are not only deeply passionate about life but are also passionate about wellbeing of their fellow human beings.

“In their portrayal of reality, they compel us to confront our blind spots. They cannot continue to live and die as paupers only to be praised and celebrated when they are resting forever,” said Deputy President Mabuza.

President Cyril Ramaphosa had declared a Special Provincial Official Funeral Category 2 for Nzima. –