National Geographic : 1986 Feb
On Assignment W ITHOUT WARNING South African police in an armored vehicle leveled shot guns at a crowd that gathered after the funeral of a woman run over by a police truck in a black township this past July. The mourners turned and ran. Free-lance photographer Peter Magubane (below) took five frames of the fleeing crowd, then began running too. He did not realize that he had been shot in the feet and backs of his legs. Helped into his car, he went for private treatment, for by appearing at a public hospital he, the victim, would likely have been charged with "public violence." With 17 pellets of lead shot still embedded in him, one wound still oozing, he pressed on to complete his coverage for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC of the Ndebele people. Such dangers have often con fronted the 54-year-old South Af rican photojournalist. In June 1969, while working for the Rand Daily Mail, Magubane was arrest ed for allegedly conspiring to over- p throw the state. When first jailed, he was forced to stand with each foot on a stack of bricks while po lice interrogated him-day and night for five days. He was held without bail in solitary confine ment in Pretoria Central Prison until September 14, 1970. Though twice acquitted of the charges, he was "banned" within his own country for five years. He was forbidden to attend gather ings, associate with more than one person at a time, leave Johannes burg without permission, or pur sue his profession. He survived mainly by buying goods at auction and reselling them. Yet he never put his cameras away and has published seven books, including two on Soweto, the giant black township outside Johannesburg. His Magubane's South Africa was banned in South Africa for seven years. HAROLD FIGLAN Now based in New York City, Magubane returned to South Africa last November to cover the continuing violence. New restrictions had been placed on the press, but whatever rapport he had from years of dealings with the police promised little help. "The senior officers know me, but they are not where the trouble is; they're behind desks. So I'm just another photographer."