Remembering Mbuyisa Makhubu #16Conversations
By Mpho Raphata
We are constantly reminded of the price many have had to pay for the freedom we enjoy today. That as South Africans, more so the younger generation we must cherish and protect what our country has become and that is because it has come at a high cost.
This June 16 I want to remember Mbuyisa Makhubu, one of the most unsung heroes of the 1976 June 16 generation, a man whose story was never really documented. In fact very little is known about him.
Mbuyisa Makhubu is the school boy in dungarees seen carrying Hector Peterson running next to Hector’s Sister Antoinette Sithole.
The photograph that was taken by Sam Nzima sparked outrage across the world and highlighted the plight of black African learners who were against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. It was seen as a symbol of what Bantu education was doing to the black child.
Hector Peterson died in that protest, he is remembered by the Hector Peterson Memorial in Soweto. His sister Antoinette works at the memorial. Makhubu on the other hand? Well no one really knows what became of him.
After the photograph was released, Makhubu’s family says he was harassed by the security police and was forced to leave the country like many other young people who were involved in the uprising.
His mother, Nombulelo Makhubu, died without any answers, she told the Truth and Reconculliation Commission that she received a letter from him from Nigeria in 1978, but never heard from him again.
He was said to have found refuge at a boarding high school in the South-Western Nigeria – Federal Government College, Warri during the 1976/77 academic year but did not stay there long.
Makhubo’s family never lost hope, 41 years on they are still hoping to find him. They were given some hope four years ago, but that was crushed by what seemed like opportunists.
It is understood that in 2013, claims emerged that a man imprisoned on immigration charges in Canada was Makhubu. The Arts and Culture department under then Minister, Paul Mashatile sent an employee of the department to Canada for DNA tests to be done. The department then told the family that the tests were inconclusive. Besides the reported birth mark that the man known as Victor Vinnetou had on the left side of his chest there was no connection found with the Makhubu family.
This year South Africa will commemorate the heroic sacrifices made by the class of ’76. Those who are still alive from that generation will recall their experience. We will march on in their footsteps from Morris Isaacson to the Hector Peterson memorial. Government will commit itself to making strides in education. We will wear our school uniforms and have a good time to wind down the day. But for the Makhubu family, it will be a painful reminder that their brother is still missing. That he has been lost and forgotten to the the brutal consequences of apartheid.
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