Hector Pieterson Museum
Hector Pieterson Museum


01 March 2007​

Apartheid Museum

Cultural and history museums

Hector Pieterson Museum
The museum is named after one of the first casualties of the march through Soweto on 16 June 1976, when police were ordered to shoot at a crowd of demonstrating students. Sam Nzima's photograph of the mortally wounded Hector Pieterson carried by a horrified youngster and his wailing sister came to symbolise the contribution of the youth to the liberation struggle. The museum is next to the Hector Pieterson Memorial, and the whole area has been declared a national heritage site.

Visitors move along a series of ramps and look through strategically placed windows at important scenes - including Orlando Stadium and the police station - and view exhibits such as television footage of the uprising. Participants and witnesses are invited to record their own experiences of the day. Knowledgeable tour guides include Hector's sister, Antoinette Sithole.

Visitor info 
8288 Khumalo Street, Orlando West 
Tel and fax: 011 536 0611 
Open: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm, Sunday from 10am to 4pm

Hector Pieterson gets his MemorialPrintE-mail
24 October 2001

"ISAW a child fall down. Under a shower of bullets I rushed forward and went for the picture. It had been a peaceful march, the children were told to disperse, they started singing Nkosi Sikelele. The police were ordered to shoot."

These are the words of Sam Nzima, recalling the events of June 16, 1976 in Soweto. Hector Pieterson, a young boy, was shot. He was picked up by Mbuyisa Makhubo, who, together with Hector's sister, Antoinette, ran towards a press car, where he was bundled in, and taken to a nearby clinic, where he was pronounced dead. The moment has been preserved in Nzima's now-legendary photograph.

Antoinette Sithole

"I was the only photographer there at the time. Other photographers came when they heard shots," he says. Nzima was a photographer for The World newspaper in Johannesburg, which was banned and closed down only a few months later.

Now those events are to be recalled at the new Hector Pieterson Museum in Orlando West, Soweto, built in memory of the people who died that day, from a total of 566 people who died in unrest around the country in 1976.

The construction of the museum will be finished at the end of October, and the museum will be opened before June next year, says project manager of the museum, Themba Mabasa. The cost has been covered by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, with a donation of R16-million. A further R7,2-million has been donated by the Johannesburg City Council for the interior and the museum displays.

"There will be one room devoted entirely to June 16," says Mabasa. "This will include the social context of Soweto, the political climate, the language issue, and the reaction: the national and international solidarity in the form of marches and gatherings."

Mabasa hopes to get television footage from various world news organisations, like the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Russia.

There will also be extensive exposure of the breaking news of the day, as covered by the South African media.

"Eyewitness accounts will add to the display, as well as the consequences of the uprising. For example, Afrikaans as the proposed medium of instruction was dropped after a month."

But it won't be just a gloomy picture. "Some of the leaders who emerged from the uprising, for instance, Patrick Lekota, now minister of defence, will be recorded."

Where are the protagonists of that moment, these days?

Sam Nzima

Nzima, who took six sequence shots of 12-year-old Pieterson in those brief moments, moved to the Northern Province a year after the incident. He left Johannesburg when it became clear that his safety in the city was under threat. "The security branch phoned me and told me to go to John Vorster Square, but I went into hiding for three weeks," he says.

The harassment didn't stop after he left the city. "In 1978 the security branch from Nelspruit phoned and told me that they knew of my whereabouts and what I had done."

Nzima set up a bottle store after he settled up north, and later served as a member of parliament in the homeland Gazankulu government. Nowadays he runs a school of photography in Bushbuckridge after being donated a black and white enlarger by The Sowetan. He also serves as the district health councillor for Bushbuckridge.

"There is an art to developing black and white pictures," he says.

But his best news is that from 1999 when the Independent Group bought the Argus newspapers, he was given copyright of his Hector photographs.

His thoughts on his role as a photographer responsible for one of the most famous photographs in South Africa's history? "I contributed a lot, I became an icon to the youth, and I epitomised the struggle and contributed to change."