[1999:] Today, the mundane sites of the historic battleground on which three centuries of white rule were finally brought to an end are no longer wreathed in smoke and tear gas. Terrified Sowetans no longer cower for shelter in their beleaguered churches. There are no police Hippos cruising menacingly up and down the wide, undulating avenues. No white-trash policemen take pot shots at unarmed black school kids. As if to mock the reports in the press, and to confuse the visitor, Soweto seems quiet, almost suburban.
[Soweto is] where Winnie (Madikizela-Mandela) lives. Nearby is Archbishop Tutu's house. A couple of blocks further is a very ordinary brown bungalow, indistinguishable from thousands of others in the township. For just 15 rand, you can go round the former residence of retiring President Nelson Mandela, described by Prospect as 'the hardest act to follow since Abraham Lincoln'. You can touch the soles of the very shoes in which he walked to freedom in February 1990. [...]
If there is one image that captured the death rattle of the old regime, it was photographer Sam Nzima's famous picture of the bloody body of a young black schoolboy being carried through the streets of Soweto by a terrified, grief-stricken schoolfriend. The schoolboy was Hector Peterson, who died that day. His friend was Mbuyisa Makhubu.
Today, almost a generation on, Makhubu has disappeared, hounded into exile by the authorities, who insisted that the image was a fake, that the picture had been posed, that 16-year-old Makhubu was the tool of ANC propaganda. And Makhubu's mother, Nombulelo, a taciturn old lady in a flowery blouse and well-worn slippers, minds a souvenir stall at the site commemorating the carnage of 16 June 1976. At the spartan but well-kept memorial to the violence, she sits in a small cabin and sells biographies of Nelson Mandela and guides to the sights of Soweto. She watches the tourists stray hesitantly into the memorial, not sure what they are commemorating.
Where is her son? 'I don't know,' she replies. 'I was told he went to Nigeria.' Does she expect to see him again? 'Yes and no.' [...] What does she feel about the future? 'It will take time.' She looks sadly at the memorial to the victims of 16 June 1976, a row of fading photographic enlargements, annotated with unevenly written names and dates. 'A lot of damage has been done.' (Robert McCrum, Observer, 30 May)