Family feud behind mall’s removal of June 16 statue

Some members of the Makhubu family and others people, including about 100 members of the Economic Freedom Fighters, marched to the Hector Pieterson Museum and the mall on June 16. They demanded “accountability of profits, revenue and other funds received from the 1990s to the present date from the unauthorised name use [of Mbuyisa Makhubu]”.

They also called for Makhubu’s name and images to be removed from the museum walls and archives.

The commemorative statue, based on Sam Nzima’s iconic photograph of the June 1976 uprisings that depicts Makhubu carrying a dying Pieterson and running alongside is Pieterson’s sister Antoinette Sithole. A mall representative said the statue had been donated by the Soweto Heritage Trust.

Makhubu was harassed by the apartheid police and fled the country a month later – first to Botswana and then to Nigeria.

Last year it emerged that a South African with Makhubu’s resemblance had been detained for immigration charges for nearly 10 years in a Canadian jail. The department of arts and culture initiated efforts to repatriate him. Canadian authorities said the man refused to co-operate. His DNA results were pronounced inconclusive by the department. The Makhubu family is still convinced the man is their flesh and blood, and want him returned to the country.

Rendani Phaswana, a centre manager at Redefine Properties, which co-owns the mall, said: “Maponya Mall has been the custodian of the statue, owned by the Soweto Heritage Trust, since 2007.

No financial benefit
The mall gained no financial benefit from displaying the statue. We have now removed the statue, and will return it to its rightful owner shortly …”

The removal of the statue can, in part, be attributed to an intensifying family feud over the management of the family’s legacy. The feud has pitted Makhubu’s elder sister Ntsiki against her younger brother Raul.

Family spokesperson Mandla Nyaqela said: “The EFF heard about this march on Jozi FM when we were announcing it. So they decided to come in their own regalia and all that. Because this was clearly a family march, we didn’t have a problem with their presence.

“But now I see them hijacking an internal family issue. They are sticking their noses where they don’t belong.”

Ntsiki was against the removal of the statue, a stance that was at odds with Raul. Interviewed this week by the M&G, she explained that after the march, she met the mall’s management to discuss how they could benefit from the statue’s presence.

“They’d allowed us to have a stall around the statue, selling his postcards and other paraphernalia.

“We’d spoken about an event on his birthday where we’d explain Mbuyisa’s legacy to passersby because people don’t know who Mbuyisa was and that he was, in fact, an activist.”

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Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo is the editor of Friday, the arts and culture section of the Mail and Guardian.

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