JOHANNESBURG. – South Africa’s Parliament’s arts and culture committee yesterday expressed his condolences to the family of legendary South African photographer Sam Nzima who died at the weekend, at 83.
According to reports, Nzima died in a Nelspruit hospital on Saturday evening. In a statement, committee chairperson Xoliswa Tom said: “Mr Nzima played a pivotal role in exposing the evil of the apartheid regime. His work is legendary and his memory will be preserved in the collection of South African history.”
Nzima’s picture of Hector Pieterson, taken amid the chaos of flying bullets and crying schoolchildren, became the iconic image that thrust the 1976 Soweto uprisings into world headlines.
The photo earned him a spot in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential photographs ever taken.
But, Nzima endured harassment by security police, who accused him of portraying South Africa in a bad light.
In an interview with The Star in 2013, Nzima recalled the events of that day: “A guy with a stick under his arm told the schoolchildren he was giving them three minutes to disperse. The defiant children began singing Nkosi Sikilel’ Afrika before all hell broke loose as the man reached for his gun and began shooting and shouting skiet.”
The children scattered, screaming.
“I saw Hector Pieterson fall down and Makhubo pick him up. I ran to the scene and took the pictures.
“Our press car was the nearest vehicle there and they put him inside and took him to Phefeni Clinic. But he was certified dead on arrival.”
Nzima knew what he had just captured with his camera was big.
He hid the film in his sock. He loaded fresh film and continued shooting. The police confiscated all the film they found on him. They missed the cartridge tucked away in his sock.
At that time, Nzima was working for The World. When his film was developed, there was much deliberation as to whether to publish the powerful picture.
He was forced to leave Soweto for his village of Lilydale in Mpumalanga and never again used the lens.
President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his condolences to Nzima’s loved ones.
“Mr Sam Nzima was one of a kind. His camera captured the full brutality of apartheid oppression on the nation’s psyche and history from the defiance campaign through to forced removals and the Soweto student uprisings,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.
The ANC said, Nzima “belonged to a generation of fearless activist photojournalists who used the might of their lenses to tell truth to power. His generation courageously confronted the apartheid system and regime by ensuring that the stories of the oppressed masses who yearned for freedom in their lifetime are not relegated to the periphery of history.”
Meanwhile, Nzima’s former deputy editor, Joe Latakgomo, said Nzima was among the frontline fighters using his camera to expose the brutality of apartheid police. – News Agencies.