The visit to the Hector Pieterson Memorial concludes our Soweto Day Tour.
The story of Hector Pieterson is a tragic and moving one. Hector Pieterson was only 12 years old when he was shot by police on a cold winter’s day, the 16th day of June 1976 during the Soweto uprising.
On this day, hundreds of African schools gathered to protest the Bantu education systems and the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in township schools. Afrikaans was considered the language of the oppressors and the Bantu education system was regarded by the blacks a gutter system designed to delegate them to a subservient role to whites in South Africa.
The school children had planned to march to the Orlando Stadium East where they intended to hand over their grievances to the authorities. They carried placards with slogans – ‘Away with Afrikaans’, ‘Amandla Awehtu’ (Power to the People), ‘Free Azania’ (Free South Africa) and sang ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika’ (God bless Africa), now the national anthem of South Africa. They never made it as far as the Orlando Stadium. Police confronted the protesters and ordered them to disperse.
Despite the peaceful nature of the protest, things soon turned ugly and the police opened fire killing a number of students, including Hector Pieterson.
The photo on the left, taken by a journalist by name of Sam Nzima, soon spread around the world and captured the attention of people across the globe. In this photo, you see the dying Hector Pieterson in the arms of Mbuyiswa. Next to Mbuyiswa is Hector Pieterson’s sister. She is still alive today but few know what happened to Mbuyiswa.
June 16th has been named National Youth Day, a public holiday to honor the youth and remember this historical event in 1976.