Where is His Monument?
Mbuyisa Makhubo was an 18-year-old South African schoolboy in 1976. He lived in the Soweto Township. Long seething tension rose to the surface and broke loose in the streets of Soweto on that fateful June day as students rebelled against the imposition of another language upon their education. It was another evidence of the nation's discontent with Apartheid. Rocks were thrown, guns were shot and students were injured and killed.
One such student was Hector Pieterson. After being shot, Mbuyisa Makhubo scooped the wounded Hector into his arms and ran to the nearest clinic. Hector's weeping sister ran alongside him. A photographer caught the tragic depiction on film and it became a famous photograph. The famous picture of him carrying a dying Hector sparked worldwide attention to the injustice in Soweto.
Hector did not survive. But, after the photograph was released, many believe Mbuyisa Makhubo was harassed by the security services and was forced to flee South Africa. His mother, Nombulelo Makhubo, told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that she received a letter from him from Nigeria in 1978, but she had not heard from him since.
No one has heard from him since.
There is now a museum in the Soweto Township named after the boy who died. The Hector Pieterson Museum depicts the courage and tragedy of that day and the freedom and reconciliation that followed. It is right that Hector has come to represent victims and activists who struggled in South Africa during Apartheid. But, why doesn't the hero who sought to carry him to safety have a museum?
Hector was an ordinary boy who was wronged. Mbuyisa was an ordinary boy who did something right. Hector lost his life as a result of the horrors of that day in June. Mbuyisa has been lost ever since. Hector has a museum named after him; Mbuyisa is a missing person.
He would be 53 years old today. Where is he? Why can't he be found so I, a woman from Missouri, can thank him and weep at his monument as I did at the Hector Pieterson Museum? Where is his home? Where is his grave? Is there no place to commemorate his life and courage and compassion?
I guess his bravery is his monument. It is a tribute to a man whose name is seldom remembered. But, without his act, Hector's name would not be remembered either.
I want to be like Mbuyisa Makhubo. I want to act out of the impulse of compassion and courage, no matter the cost and no matter the reward. None of us really need monuments, we just need bravery. And, our personal courage becomes the monument of a life well lived...even if it is lost.
Well, that's what's been percolating in me lately.