Legendary SA photojournalist dies

Henry

Peter Magubane, legendary South African photojournalist who for decades recorded the country’s history through his camera lens, died on New Year’s Day at the age of 91.

Magubane was at one stage the official photographer of the late former president. Nelson Mandela and his iconic photos were known worldwide.

“He was incredibly passionate about his work; everything else would stop when it came to his work,” his daughter Fikile told the SAUC.

Magubane’s family has not released any details about the circumstances surrounding his death. According to Sacef, an association for journalists, he “died peacefully, surrounded by his family”.

Magubane has in the photography laboratory of the magazine Drum worked before he moved behind the camera and documented the everyday South African reality at the time – and key moments in the fight for equality.

He was arrested in 1969 while covering protests outside the prison where Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and other activists were being held, and spent 586 days in solitary confinement. After his release, he was ordered to stop taking pictures for five years. He was arrested again in 1971 and continued to work afterwards while trying to evade the police.

During the Soweto uprising of 1976, he took some of the most striking photographs of the protest.

“South Africa has lost a freedom fighter, a masterful storyteller and a lensman… Peter Magubane fearlessly recorded the injustice of apartheid,” said Zizi Kodwa, Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, in a tribute to X.

“Peter Magubane, who fought apartheid with his camera, has died,” he said The New York Times report.

“I didn’t want to leave the country and find another life,” he said in 2015 The Guardian said.

“I would stay and fight with my camera as a weapon. However, I didn’t want to kill anyone. I wanted to kill apartheid,” he said at the time.

Magubane never took posed photos or asked permission to photograph anyone, but “apologised afterwards if anyone felt too close”, he said. “I wanted the picture.”