Youth Day: ‘We must know where we come from’ — Sithole

2011-06-16 00:00

SHE has told her story a thousand times, but Antoinette Sithole, sister of Hector Pieterson, still has to block the tears as she remembers the smell of teargas and the frightened shouts of the youth who stood up to the police’s bullets and dogs on June 16, 1976.

That was the day the Soweto Uprising started, remembered as Youth Day.

Sithole was the keynote speaker at a Youth Day programme hosted yesterday by the KwaZulu-Natal Museum, which aimed make youngsters aware of the brave heritage their parents had left.

Sithole showed the audience at her lecture a photo of Pieterson when he was four years old. It shows a toddler dressed in a new set of festive clothes. Sithole said she was showing this touching memorial of her brother to the public for the first time.

Sithole and Pieterson both appear in the famous struggle photo that flashed around the world and become the iconic image of the student uprising. Pieterson’s body was carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo, running to seek for help after the 12-year-old had been shot by police. Had he lived, Pieterson could have been 47 years old today.

Sithole said that even though the history is sad, South Africans should still be proud of it.

The 52-year-old is a tour guide at the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum in Orlando West, Soweto, where she has met the likes of U.S. President Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela.

She urged young people to know who they are, where they come from and where they are going.

“I always encourage young people to be part of historic plays at school so that the history can stay in their minds.”

Sithole spoke passionately about the gunshots on that fateful day, the police blocking streets and the teargas burning their eyes and noses, causing some to faint.

She told The Witness that she uses an emotional blocking mechanism to avoid becoming too teary each time she tells how her brother died in the fight against an unjust system.

“I never got counselling. In my head I tell myself that I’m sharing about the story that I read in the newspaper or from a film. That’s how I cope.

“Never again should we ever find ourselves fighting with stones,” Sithole added.


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