South Africa: Mbuyisa Makhubu
On this eve of the anniversary of June 16, I wanted to focus on the life and disappearance of Mbuyisa Makhubo, the young man carrying Hector Pieterson in the iconic photograph from that historic day that changed South Africa.
Andrew Molefe: newage.co.za
One of the most enduring mysteries of South Africa’s march to freedom must be the whereabouts of Mbuyisa Makhubo.
Makhubo is the young, tall and lithe Soweto youth in dungarees in that iconic and now historic June 16, 1976 picture.
He was photographed carrying the limp body of Hector Pieterson and fleeing as apartheid security forces mowed down hapless students.
The question, whatever happened to Mbuyisa Makhubo has been asked every single year around June 16 commemorations for the past 35 years. The answer has repeatedly being the same: “No-one knows.”
The picture that was taken by Sam Nzima made security forces interested in the young man but Makhubo managed to stay one step ahead of them until the pressure became unbearable and he fled to neighbouring Botswana where he stayed only for a while.
There is little information about his stay in Botswana because he feared cross-border raids common in those days and instead went underground to avoid detection. He remained in Botswana just long enough to father a son Thato, with a Motswana woman.
Thato was yesterday spotted at the Hector Pieterson memorial event in Soweto.
He is said to be a disc jockey in Botswana.
Thato is 34 years old now and his father would have been 53 today. The anguished schoolgirl who ran alongside Makhubo, Pieterson’s sister Antoinette Sithole will carry the image of her dying brother been carried by Makhubo to the grave.
In a newspaper interview earlier, she said of that fateful day, Hector was shot dead before she had the opportunity to take him home and avoid the carnage and bloodletting that was going on the streets.
A 17-year-old Form 2 (Grade nine) student then, Sithole saw Makhubo running past. He was carrying something and on close inspection, realised it was her 12-year-old younger brother, Hector.
She joined Mbuyisa who was running towards the clinic with the lifeless body of Hector in his arms. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the clinic.
There never were reports of Makhubo’s death.
The world only knows that from Botswana he wondered further into exiled and landed in Nigeria. It was only in Nigeria that Makhubo got in contact with his family back home for the first time.
His mother, Nombulelo Makhubo who died in 2004, told the TRC that Mbuyisa wrote her a letter from Nigeria in 1978. Another letter said he was studying medicine.
The family later learnt he was very sick and unhappy in Nigeria and that was the last they heard of and from him.
Please note that there are differing ways of spelling the Makhubu last name. No disrespect intended.
Such a powerful story…the “detective” in me makes me want to investigate this further…