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On 16 June 1976, when the police from the Orlando Police Station led by Colonel Kleingeld opened fire on Soweto students protesting against the imposition of Afrikaans instruction in school, he took the first bullet. Hastings Ndlovu's death did not become as iconic as Hector Pieterson's because no photographer was present to record it. Colonel Kleingeld said at the Cillie Commission that Hastings 'was inciting the crowd'.
There is some doubt as to who was the first fatality, as Hector Pieterson was pronounced dead upon arrival at the clinic, whereas Hastings Ndlovu died from bullet wounds to the head shortly after being brought to the clinic. Ndlovu lapsed into a coma and never recovered. It is still not clear who died first, Hector Pieterson or Hastings Ndlovu, but it is likely that Pieterson was the first death on that day.
Hastings Ndlovu was buried with Hector Pieterson at Avalon Cemetery in Johannesburg. His house at 7235 Thabete Street, Soweto, Johannesburg had a blue plaque attached to it on 16 June 2012 to commemorate his sacrifice.