Sam Nzima’s iconic picture of Hector Pieterson’s shot body being carried away from the terror of apartheid security forces bullets on June 16 1976 is recognizable all over the world. But what of the young man carrying 13 year old Hector’s body?
His name is Mbuyiso Nkita Makhubu. He supposedly left South Africa in 1978 and a few years after that all trace of him has been lost. It’s said he died in exile. But no-one knows for sure. He’s joined the ranks of the disappeared of South Africa.
Mbuyiso is a reminder of all the other children who were part of the June 16 1976 protests. Many of those children would now be in their 50s. Hector’s step-sister Antoinette Musi (now Sithole), seen in the famous picture would be 51 this year.
How is it possible that a 13 year old child could have been so cold- bloodedly killed? The post-mortem showed that he was killed by a shot fired directly at him – and not by a bullet ‘ricocheting off the ground’ as the police claimed.
Who made the bullet that killed Hector Pieterson? What vehicles transported the police into Soweto to confront the marching children? Who pulled the trigger? Was it a terrified policeman? Was there an order to shoot?
So much is known about Hector Pieterson – why don’t we know about Mbuyiso Makhubu? Surely he really acted heroically that day. He would be in his early fifties today. Why hasn’t our government done more to find out what happened to him? Why haven’t they awarded him one of South Africa’s awards?
Today — National Youth Day — we remember that Hector Pieterson was brutally murdered 34 years ago. But we also remember Mbuyiso Makhubu who tried to save him, and wonder what has happened to this hero of the struggle.
And let us not forget that the apartheid government needed the assistance of companies like Daimler, General Motors and Ford to transport the police and military. Let us not forget the assistance of companies like Rheinmetall in manufacturing bullets and armaments. Let us not forget the assistance of companies like IBM that helped computerise the racial categories of human beings the apartheid government created to oppress the majority. Let us also not forget that the apartheid government needed the assistance of the oil companies and the banks of that time.
All of these companies can be considered guilty of having common purpose in the crime of murdering Hector Pieterson, and perhaps also, as a result, the disappearance of Mbuyiso Makhubu.