Having looked at what June 16 meant, and having looked at the story behind one of the most iconic photographers in the South African context, it sparked a lot of curiosity surrounding the impact the picture had on the people involved and their individual stories.
For me, the one person who plays a very important role in this story, for many reasons is Antoinette Sithole – Hector Pieterson’s sister. This is because not only was she there when it happened, but she is still alive, and able to give us significant insight into the Soweto uprisings. However, I have seen short interviews and snippets of her in documentaries and on YouTube, which is very surprising considering she is the only source directly linked who can give us insight still.
But it might be linked to the way in which her role at the museum is perceived. Because she currently still works at the Hector Pieterson museum, as a guide (assumption based on my research), there seems to be an assumption that people would just go there to engage her, but what about people that can’t afford to get to the museum? One can only hope that of the many writers in the South Africa someone will consider doing her memoirs as soon as possible. Her role in the struggle is underrated, as many women were.
Antoinette Sithole was born in 1959 (I think, if my maths serves me correctly – basically she should be turning 58 or 59 this year, but I think it’s 58); she is the eldest of 6 in her family, to which Hector was the only boy born to their mother. Hector would have been about 54 today. She dreamt of becoming a pharmacist but that all changed as she was unable to continue school after the uprisings, here she got married and had to care for her mother in law who had fallen ill.
She is married with 3 kids to her second husband. In 1998 she continued her schooling to try complete her matric.
Sithole is even quoted as saying she enjoys engaging with students in particular, as it allows everyone to learn from each other.
She has certainly done a lot South Africa, ensuring that our history is always remembered in order for us to do better, but again one can’t help but feel as usual she hasn’t yet got the recognition she deserves within South Africa, as contrasted with the recognition she has received overseas.
As for Mbuyisa Makhubu, the brave decision he made to go fetch Hector amid all the chaos can never be forgotten. The conspiracy theory surrounding his whereabouts to me seems likely to be true considering that I 100% don’t believe the ANC government would ever own up to how poorly they have handled political prisoners that aren’t affiliated with the ANC or even in general citizens that choose not to be affiliiated – A tangent for another day, but ya’ll must really check out that whole Victor Vinnetou saga. There is even a whole podcast series on this. Here it seems to me people ignored what they called signs of mental illness, cause it’s convenient for politicians to not have to engage in complex issues. Here Victor was said to be South African so even if he isn’t Mbuyisa – which I doubt, why was no one trying to bring him home either way with or without potential mental illness, and with or without a potentially famous identity?
One thing is for sure, these 4 weren’t the only ones captured as making history, here a video link to a brief story around Tsietsi Mashinini and other struggle heros also highlights how it hasn’t been all success stories for people post apartheid and more specifically post the student uprisings.
The youth still has a long way to go in order to achieve a just South Africa, and this was and still is only the beginning.