Masana Samuel ‘Sam’ Nzima was born in 1934 in the rural village of Lilydale in Mpumalanga near Bushbuckridge. He later moved to Johannesburg to seek work. He got his first lucky break as a photojournalist on the World newspaper where he started as a freelancer and then was employed full time. On 16 June 1976 Nzima took his world-famous photograph of the young Hector Pieterson in the arms of Mbuyisa Makhubo. The World published it the next day. He died on Saturday 12 May 2018 in hospital in Nelspruit after a short illness.
Nzima was part of a generation of courageous journalists that stood up and reported on the brutality of the apartheid regime. He reported without fear or favour. He is a reminder of the fearless role played by a number of journalists in the struggle for democracy that now guarantees us freedom of the media, freedom of expression and access to information put under house arrest for 19 months in Lilydale.
Nzima’s iconic photograph of a dying Hector Pieterson became a symbol of resistance against apartheid generally and the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in black schools in particular.
Nzima’s commitment to development and transformation continued way after his famous photograph. As the time of his death, he was building a college to teach young people photojournalism in his hometown of Lilydale.
As SANEF we hope that young journalists will take inspiration from his deep courage and his unwavering commitment to transformation and the deepening of democracy at huge personal risk. As an industry, we are honoured to have had journalists such as Nzima as part of our ranks.