Sam Nzima is best known for taking the iconic photograph of Hector Pieterson, his sister Antoinette Sithole and Mbuyisa Makhubu during the Soweto Uprising on 16 June 1976 — 44 years ago. 


On 16 June every year, we celebrate Youth Day to pay tribute to those brave students who protested for equal education and freedom which was squandered by apartheid rule. 


Sam Nzima, just as much a hero as the students, will forever be remembered for freezing a pivotal moment in history with his camera. Sam Nzima, while capturing a painful moment, highlighted the plight of black South Africans for people all over the world. 

SAM NZIMA CAPTURES PIVOTAL MOMENT IN HISTORY 


Sam Nzima, born on 8 August 1934 in Lillydale — a small village in Bushbuck Ridge, Limpopo — was fascinated with the concept of pictures coming out of a box. 


According to SA History Online, Sam Nzima would go to the Kruger National Park and charge people to get their photographs taken by him.


In 1968 — eight years before the Soweto Uprising — he was offered a full-time job as a photojournalist by The World in Johannesburg and he accepted.


On 16 June 1976, students took to the streets protesting against Bantu Education and broader apartheid rule. Students refused to be taught in Afrikaans, a language that was deemed the language of the oppressor. 


On that fateful day, police opened fire on protesting students. One of the first to be killed was 12-year-old Hector Pieterson. 


While Makhubu carried Pieterson's lifeless body — Sithole in emotional agony nearby — Sam Nzima clicked his camera and a crucial moment in history was captured, one that helped to challenge apartheid and change the course of history. Time Magazine described it as "a photo that made the world take notice".


Knowing apartheid authorities would check his footage, Nzima cleverly took the film out of his camera and hid it in his sock. Authorities were unable to find the Hector Pieterson image.


For his excellent contribution to photojournalism and placing the brutality of the apartheid police in the international spotlight, Nzima was conferred with the Order of Ikhamanga in Bronze. 

Sam Nzima: The eyes behind the camera during the Soweto Uprising

16 June 2002. Enoch Sitole(6) from Soweto admires the famous photograph taken by Sam Nzima of Hector Pieterson at the Memorial site in Soweto on Youth Day. Image via: Gallo

PHOTOJOURNALIST DIES A LEGEND 


Sam Nzima died in a Nelspruit hotel on 12 May 2018. After his career in photography, he continued to serve the people admirably in his hometown of Lillydale, Bushbuckridge.


Sam Nzima was a long-serving member of the Bushbuck Ridge municipal council and the council of Bohlabela District.