Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist


‘Peter Magubane would not put his camera down despite attempts to break his spirit’ – Ramaphosa

Peter Magubane's funeral service took place in Johannesburg on Wednesday.


President Cyril Ramaphosa commended the pivotal role played by esteemed photojournalist Peter Magubane in the fight against the oppressive Apartheid regime.

The funeral service of Magubane, who died on 1 January, took place at the Bryanston Methodist Church in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

The occasion was attended by former president Thabo Mbeki, Gauteng premier Panyaza Lusufi, Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa, and Veteran actor and playwright Dr John Kani among the delegates.

‘Magubane would not put his camera down’

In his eulogy, Ramaphosa praised Magubane as a “distinguished lensman” and one of the finest and most fearless journalists South Africa has produced.

“Having read the many written tributes that have been penned over the past week by people who worked alongside him and were mentored by him, it is clear that the description of him as a legend is a fitting one,” he said.

“As the New York Times obituary put it, Peter Magubane’s images documenting the cruelty and violence of Apartheid drew global acclaim, but punishment to him at home included beatings, detentions, imprisonment and 586 consecutive days of solitary confinement.

“Despite all attempts to break his spirit and to take him away from his craft, he would not put his camera down. We have heard of how he would smuggle his cameras into hollowed-out bread, milk cartons and I am told even the Bible, to take pictures without the notice of the authorities,” Ramaphosa continued.

ALSO READ: RIP Peter Magubane: The lensman who fought evil

The president said the veteran photographer was “worthy of the highest acclaim” and deserved the special provincial official funeral.

“We as the South African people are giving richly deserved recognition to Dr. Magubane for his contribution to the important craft of journalism.”

He further pointed out that Magubane left work which will be studied for generations to come.

“A great tree has fallen. We mourn Dr. Peter Magubane and pay tribute to his legacy.”

Panyaza Lesufi hailed Magubane as a “storyteller”, “gentle giant” and “hero of our struggle”.

“When the said a picture is worth a thousand words, I think they meant Dr Magubane,” the Gauteng premier stated in a brief speech.

Watch the funeral service below:

‘Selfless sacrifices’

African National Congress (ANC) Veterans’ League president Snuki Zikalala described Magubane as a “fearless” photographer whose images told “thousands of horrific stories about the brutality of the nauseous Apartheid system”.

“Bra Peter was prepared to risk his life to take quality pictures of the atrocious Apartheid living and working conditions of the black majority in South Africa.

“His pictures exposed Apartheid police and other brutality against South African activists who were protesting against the suppressive laws which discriminated against the majority in their own country,” he said.

READ MORE: Dr. John Kani receives honour on his 80th birthday at The Market Theatre

“Bra Peter, your selfless sacrifices were not in vain,” Zikalala, who first met Magubane at Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s house in 1969, added.

Furthermore, Kani commended Magubane for his “creative spirit” and recounted an experience where the photographer took a picture during his arrest in 1976.

“Amid stones, dustbins, bullets flying and teargas, he wanted to photograph those who were grabbed by the police… and the police did not fear so much our stones and petrol bombs, they feared that camera because that camera exposed the brutality,” he said.

The playwright called for the formation of a structure for the veterans of arts and culture in South Africa.

“Most of us who are over 70 worked during the time we were not paid and that’s why we are poor in 2023.”

Kani said he was working with Kodwa to create “this wonderful structure that will look after our legends”.

“We are the veterans of the cultural struggle,” the actor said.

“We need to look after them [because] they cannot depend on Sassa and the R350 [grant]. We owed them more,” he added.

Magubane will be laid to rest at the Fourways Memorial Park Cemetery.

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apartheid Cyril Ramaphosa Panyaza Lesufi

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