Keep it in the family, begs Hector Pieterson's sister

Lulu Pieterson, sister of Hector Pieterson. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Lulu Pieterson, sister of Hector Pieterson. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Her dogged persistence to rewrite the narrative of her brother's history and to get royalties from all of those who use his name to generate money has caused a rift with her family and made her many enemies.

Now a mother of eight, Lulu (42) was only five years old when Hector (then 12) was gunned down on June 16 1976 during the Soweto youth uprising against the use of Afrikaans in township schools. For the past 20 years, her crusade against the Hector Pieterson Museum – which she wants closed down – has taken her to the office of the president in Pretoria, the public protector and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Lulu wants recognition, she tells the Mail & Guardian, and her main target is the world-famous museum.

"Nowhere in their history [of the museum] am I recognised as the only blood sister to Hector," she says. "Worse still is that I am now the poorest [in the family] but the museum makes money and does not even give

us anything. It is like I don't exist but I am the only one who has claims to the surname being used."

Lulu's battle has put her at odds with her mother, Dorothy Molefi, and older sister, Antoinette Sithole. Lulu believes she is closer to Hector because they share the same mother and late father, Vivian Pieterson. Antoinette only shares their mother.

Causing trouble
Dorothy still lives near the museum in Meadowlands, in the house she occupied in 1976. She lives there with Lulu's two oldest daughters and Antoinette's father, Ezekiel Molefi.

"Lulu is causing trouble for me. Why should she be the one who is getting anything because I also got nothing from the use of my son's name," Dorothy says. "I am still as poor as before. I haven't got a cent from this either. Save for invitations to attend a few events I gained nothing. But I haven't made as much noise. There were many others who died on the day and why should we be singled out. That's how I see it."

The Hector Pieterson Museum was opened on June 16 2002, and is run by the City of Johannesburg's arts, culture and heritage department. It prominently features photographer Sam Nzima's iconic image from 1976, which shows Hector in the arms of Mbuyisa Makhubu and Antoinette running alongside them.

Antoinette now works at the museum. "I don't understand why she [Lulu] is fighting me and going around claiming that I am using her brother's name for money," she says.

"Whatever I get is because I am also a brand myself. I appear on the photo and I am employed, like everyone else at the museum. There are no benefits that accrue to me based on Hector. I am a motivational speaker and tour guide. That's how I make my money."

Antoinette believes that the sisters are not qualified to speak about Hector while their mother is still alive: "If mom has an issue, let her be the one to raise it. We must not stress her out unnecessarily because there were many people who died on the day. We must be grateful that our brother's name is etched in history."

But for Lulu this is not enough. She wants the museum closed. "I am one of the only surviving Pietersons … The museum even refused to allow me to sell my Hector Pieterson postcards, yet they use the name of my brother as the main drawcard for their museum."

Historic injustice
Lulu recently founded the Hector Pieterson Foundation. With the help of Mandla Nyaqela, the foundation's secretary, she last year reported the matter to the public protector and the president's office for investigation. Both institutions say they are dealing with the matter.

Lulu says struggle stalwart Madikizela-Mandela and the City of Johannesburg promised to take action too, but never got back to her.

"It's a case of correcting a historic injustice," Nyaqela says. "It cannot be that Lulu can be this poor while people make money using her brother's name."

The University of Johannesburg, which named its Soweto campus residence after Hector, says it is not paying anyone for the use of the name.

"The Soweto campus director engaged the family of Hector Pieterson and they gave UJ their consent for the use of the name for the residence," says Herman Esterhuizen, UJ's media liaison officer. "The university is not paying any royalties for names used on campus."

The man behind the popular label Loxion Kulca, Zuza Mbatha, has started a Hector Pieterson clothing label with Dorothy's other child, Sina Molefi. He says he will give part of the proceeds to a foundation already established by Antoinette.

Lease agreement
"For us to use the name, we spoke with both his mother and Antoinette. We signed all documents and will give the proceeds to their foundation, which will in turn benefit the community on issues of HIV, education and many other things," Mbatha says. He has already signed a lease agreement that will allow him to open a store next to the museum where he will sell his clothing.

"We know the family has internal issues but we will make sure that we do not leave out Lulu. The problem now is that our business took a nosedive and we struggled a bit but this year we will be up and running."

Nthatisi Modingoane, deputy director of communications at the City of Johannesburg, says he is aware of Lulu's claims but denies the City makes money from the museum.

"The museum is not a commercial entity and it does not pay royalties to any family whose story and names of the loved one is memorialised in the institution," he says. "This is generally accepted practice. No family receives payment for having a street, building, stadium or memorial named in honour of their loved ones."

"It must also be pointed out that the museum does not pay royalties to the photographers and institutions holding copyright on the images and audiovisual material on display in the museum because the museum is a public service."

Manqoba Nxumalo

Manqoba Nxumalo

Manqoba Nxumalo is the Mail & Guardian's Eugene Saldanha Fellow for social justice reporting in 2013. Nxumalo started his journalism career at the Swazi Observer, a government-controlled Mbabane-based newspaper, in 2004. The following year he moved to the kingdom's only independent newspaper, Times of Swaziland, where he reported on diverse issues for six years. During this time Manqoba completed a diploma in law at the University of Swaziland while doing court reporting for the newspaper. This experience drove his passion to use journalism as a tool to change the injustices of the world and give a voice to those without one. His work put him at odds with authorities in Swaziland, and in 2011 Manqoba moved to South Africa to continue telling his stories. He has written for a range of local and international publications. Read more from Manqoba Nxumalo


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