Tributes for Magubane continue

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Tributes for the late veteran photographer Peter Magubane have continued to pour in.

Parliament’s Presiding Officers, led by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Amos Masondo, have joined the nation in mourning the passing of Magubane.

Magubane who passed away on Monday, cut his teeth as a photojournalist during apartheid and at the height of political segregation and oppression of the black majority in South Africa.

The Presiding Officers said Magubane made his name by documenting the country’s political and socio-economic injustices and major political events through scintillating photos.

“Mr Magubane stood out among the few journalists who braved the brutality of the apartheid regime by documenting the struggles of the black majority. He used his lens to shine a spotlight on the injustice meted out by the government of the day,” said the Presiding Officers in a statement on .

They said his photographic records of events like the Sharpeville massacre, the arrest of the late Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the Rivonia Trial, the Women’s March to the Union Buildings against Pass Laws, and many other iconic moments were evidence of the might of his camera lens.

“His passing saddens us as it marks the end of an era of brave and fearless journalists who risked their lives to tell the South African story in every way possible. Through his lens, he contributed to the hard-earned democracy that we enjoy today. As a nation, we owe it to his legacy to continue to work tirelessly to get rid of all social ills,” said the Presiding Officers.

Parliament extended its deepest condolences to the Magubane family, his associates in the media and arts fraternity, and to all South Africans.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation also passed its condolences to the family and friends of Magubane.

“As an activist and documentary photographer, he was renowned for his courage in face of apartheid state brutality. His photographic record of the life and times of Nelson Mandela is both extensive and full of emblematic images.

“At critical moments during the years of struggle, he provided support to Mandela family members.”

The foundation worked closely with Ntate Magubane over the years on a variety of projects.

“In 2008 we became the custodians of his original exhibition “Mandela: Man of the People” and have presented versions of it to the public in our own facility and in partner institutions. We will miss Ntate Magubane’s dry sense of humour and his sharp eye, and will always value a body of work carrying great historical and artistic significance,” it said.

Meanwhile, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister, Zizi Kodwa, visited the family of the legendary photographer and anti-apartheid activist in Johannesburg on Wednesday to pay his respects.

The Minister was joined by Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi and Gauteng MEC for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation Morakane Mosupyoe.

The Minister, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mosupyoe are among those who have expressed their condolences following the passing of the 91-year-old icon.

“I have learned with great sadness of the passing of… Peter Magubane. On behalf of government and the nation, I offer my deep condolences to the Magubane family, our veteran’s friends and his countless associates around the country and globally,” said President Ramaphosa.

The life and times of an icon

Magubane was born on 18 January 1932 Vrededorp (now Pageview, a suburb of Johannesburg), and grew up in Sophiatown. He began taking photographs as a schoolboy.

In 1954, he read a copy of Drum magazine, which detailed the effects of apartheid. He decided he wanted to be part of the magazine.

Magubane started employment at Drum as a driver. After six months of odd jobs, he was given a photography assignment under the mentorship of Jürgen Schadeberg, the chief photographer. He covered the 1955 African National Congress (ANC) convention.

Magubane photographed most of South Africa's historic moments, such as Sharpeville in 1960 and Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial in 1964.

He was arrested in June 1969 while photographing protesters outside Pretoria Central Prison, where Winnie Madikizela Mandela was jailed. Magubane was later held in solitary confinement for 586 days.

Magubane has worked for Rand Daily Mail and has worked on assignments for Time magazine, the United Nations and Sports Illustrated photographing a series about the South African teenage runner, Zola Budd.

Following Mandela’s release from prison, Magubane became his official photographer in 1990, until he became the country’s President.

Magubane received several prestigious awards and honours throughout his illustrious career. Some of the notable recognitions he received include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Press Photographers' Association (NPPA).

In 2017, Magubane was honoured with the Order of Luthuli in silver.

Other notable achievements include:

1958 – First black South African to win a photographic prize in the country – first and third prizes were awarded to him for Best Press pictures of the year.

1985 – Robert Capa Gold Medal.

1986 – Dr. Erich Salomon Award.

1992 – Special Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism.

1995 – Martin Luther King Luthuli Award.

1997 – Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mother Jones Foundation and Leica Cameras.

1997 – Fellowship by the Tom Hopkinson School of Journalism and Cultural Studies, University of Wales, Cardiff

1999 – Order for Meritorious Service Class II from President Mandela.

2003 – Honorary Doctorate degree from the University of South Africa.

2006 – Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Fort Hare.

2006 – Honorary Doctorate of Technology from the Tshwane University of Technology.

2006 – Doctor of Law (honoris causa) Rhodes University.

2008 – Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society, UK.

2010 – Cornell Capa Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography.

2010 – Honorary doctorate degree from Columbia College (Chicago).

2015 – Nat Nakasa Award for Media Integrity.

He published a total of 17 books, two of which were banned by the apartheid regime.