Photojournalist Magubane was a gift to South Africa who courageously told stories through his lens

The photographer is shown looking at one of his legendary black and white photographs.

Peter Magubane. Picture: GCINA NDWALANE

Published Jan 3, 2024


As the outpouring of tributes to the legendary photojournalist Peter Magubane continues, he is remembered for his bravery and unwavering spirit in documenting the atrocities of apartheid.

Magubane died on January 1 at the age of 91, surrounded by his loved ones.

He is renowned for his monumental commitment to journalism, having been instrumental in capturing the most difficult and significant periods of the country’s transition on camera.

Among those expressing sympathy to the Magubane family were Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi, who heralded him as a gift to South Africa.

“Peter Magubane documented the raw images of the horrific Sharpeville Massacre and other crimes committed by the apartheid regime, which helped to change public sentiment against the system throughout the world.

“Dr Magubane was a gift to South Africa; with his camera lenses, he shaped and changed South Africa’s destiny. He was a national treasure who will be remembered for his contribution to the field of photography and respected for his courage in the face of oppression,” Lesufi said.

Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Zizi Kodwa lamented the loss of Magubane, saying South Africa has lost a liberation fighter, a gifted storyteller and a lensman.

Exhibition of Dr Peter Magubane Child Labour at the Faculty of Art Design and Architectures (FADA) at the University of Johannesburg Bunting Road. Picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse

President Cyril Ramaphosa also paid tribute to the photographer and said: “I have learned with great sadness of the passing of veteran photographer and activist Peter Magubane at the age of 91. On behalf of the government and the nation, I offer my deep condolences to the Magubane family, our veteran’s friends, and his countless associates around the country and globally. For most of his life, Peter Magbane created iconic visual records of our Struggle for freedom and of the full range of life in our country.

Exhibition of Dr Peter Magubane Child Labour at the Faculty of Art Design and Architectures (FADA) at the University of Johannesburg Bunting Road. Picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse

“He documented our nation and the early years of Nelson Mandela’s freedom with a prosaic passion that was powered as much by what he felt from the heart as what he saw through his lens. He has sadly left us at the start of the year in which we are marking 30 years of freedom. As we revisit our journey to freedom and the progression of our democratic dispensation, Peter Magubane’s imagery will be an important part of our reflections.”

The PAC cited some of Magubane’s major works, saying he will be forever remembered.

Framed pictures hang in the office of former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela at the newly renovated Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Houghton, Johannesburg, June 11, 2013. A number of documents, including Mandela's first official passport and letters he wrote to his family and friends while he was a prisoner at Robben Island, are kept at the centre. Mandela remained in a "serious but stable" condition in a Pretoria hospital on Tuesday after four days of treatment for a lung infection, the government said. The picture at left by photographer Peter Magubane shows Mandela (hand raised) with late African National Congress (ANC) president Oliver Tambo while at right is a portrait of Mandela by photographer Peter Morey. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: POLITICS)

“The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania extends heartfelt condolences on the passing of legendary photographer Peter Magubane. His impactful work and dedication to capturing the essence of our liberation Struggle history, especially the June 16, 1976 Soweto Uprising and PAC-led pass-law protest in Sharpeville, will forever be remembered. May his legacy inspire future generations to strive for justice and true freedom.”