Hector Pieterson was born today (August 19) in 1963. He was among the first deaths that took place on June 16, 1976. At only age 12 at the time, he became a struggle hero and his name has since been synonymous with youth struggles and commemorations of the 1976’s youth day stories and celebrations. The image of his young almost lifeless body after he was shot, being carried by another student (Mbuyisa Makhubu), and his sister (Antoinette) beside them was published around the world (or as today’s youngsters would say: ‘it went viral’) and made them iconic figures of the youth struggle.
Hector Pieterson, like the other children on the day, was taking a stand against Afrikaans and English being used as mediums of instruction in the education system. They (the students) had organised protest marches that would spark change and begin a revolution: much like the recent FeesMustFall marches, student stood in solidarity and the movement spread to other parts of the country.
Since then, in his memory, Pieterson has had a museum built in his honour, a small distance from where he was shot and killed, with the iconic image by news photographer at the time, Sam Nzima hanging for the public to learn about, along with other victims of course.
Quick fact: Zolile Hector Pieterson’s surname is actually Pitso but they had it changed in hopes of passing as Coloured since Coloured people enjoyed a slightly better quality of life in comparison to Africans / Blacks (it was quite a common practice).
Today we take a retrospective and celebratory look at his life and give thanks for the immeasurable contribution as well as the spirit of standing up for causes one believes in and giving of themselves for the betterment of their futures. May Hector continue resting in peace.