Sam Nzima: Family says his death has left them devastated

South African photographer Sam Nzima. (Gallo images, Daily Sun/Sipho Maluka)
South African photographer Sam Nzima. (Gallo images, Daily Sun/Sipho Maluka)

The family of iconic photographer Sam Nzima says they will miss his humility and selflessness.

Nzima, who is well known for his historic shot of a lifeless Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubu during the 1976 Soweto uprising, died on Saturday at the Rob Ferreira Hospital in Nelspruit.

His son, Thulani Nzima, said that the family was devastated especially as it had seemed as if his father was recovering in hospital after being admitted on Friday with a lung infection.

"When he collapsed on Thursday I was in Durban on business. I drove down to see him in hospital [and] I found him having his tea and we chatted normally for an hour and a half before I left. The following day, that is when we received the news," said Thulani.

Thulani said that his mother was not taking his father's death well.

"She is hysterical at the moment because my father was her best friend," he said.

A full life

He said that his father was a hero who contributed to shaping the future of South Africa.

"My father was a hero who was humble and selfless. His contribution to South Africa was reflected and celebrated globally. Even after all that, he continued to serve as a veteran in this country. Our family is more thankful to [former] president Jacob Zuma who honoured him with the Order of Ikhamanga."

READ: Ramaphosa and ANC hail Nzima

Thulani said that although it took his family 22 years to consolidate his father's rights to the Hector Peterson image, it gave the family pleasure knowing his father lived to experience the global recognition he received for his selfless contribution.

"I am glad that he died after living a full life with his family and his nation," he said, adding that the family wanted to give the veteran photographer a dignified burial.

Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni and other ANC members from the province were among those who paid their respects to the Nzima family on Monday.

Call for a state funeral

"Nzima deserves a state funeral because of his contribution to South African history. He deserves to be buried like royalty. He risked his life and helped expose apartheid in the 70s," said Mtsweni.

She said she would write a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa to consult him on whether Nzima would be given a state funeral.

Mpumalanga ANC acting chairperson Mandla Ndlovu agreed that Nzima, who he said was an important part of South African history, should be given a state burial.

"We have lost a true cadre in the ANC because this is one man who was part of the history and politics of this nation. Nzima did not learn of his politics by buying books at CNA or Exclusive Books," Ndlovu said.

Mtsweni added that the provincial government would ensure Nzima's dream of a photo gallery and a journalism school in his hometown near the Kruger National Park was realised.

"We should promote his legacy," said the premier.

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