Steve Biko Legacy Celebrated

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[Africa News Update]

The spirit of Steve Bantu Biko lives on 30 years after the apartheid regime brutally killed one of South Africa’s brilliant and charismatic leaders who played an important role in the struggle for the rights and dignity of the Black people.

Biko died a terrible and lonely death in a Pretoria prison on September 12 1977. Inside South Africa, last week, black people were searching for Biko’s spirit, writing highly inspiring articles that tugged at the heart strings of a people who once suffered terribly in the hands of the brutal apartheid regime.

Magazines, newspapers and television channels all retraced Biko’s footsteps, capturing the desperate political circumstances for Africans in the late 1970s and in the 1980s. Biko fought stereotypes that clamp down Black people such as that “Blacks are inferior,” and that “Blacks cannot think properly without the white man.”

Biko advocated “Black consciousness” as a philosophy to lift the psychological level of the Black struggle. As president of the Black People’s Convention, he taught that Black people had to break the chains of oppression, chains of hopelessness, the inferiority complex to free themselves from mental enslavement and build the confidence necessary for liberation and development.

“Whites must be made to realize that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realize that they are also human, not inferior,” Biko said.

“The basic tenet of Black consciousness is that the Black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity.”

Recalls Professor Barney Pityana, the principal and vice chancellor of the University of South Africa: “To be with Steve was a life-changing experience.”

“And I remember the utter shock, the numbing pain I felt as a result of this, it was just shocking,” Pityana told the Mail and Guardian, of Biko’s death. Pityana and Biko led the Black Consciousness Movement, the South African Students’ Organization in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Biko was arrested on August 18, 1977 at a road block. He later suffered massive head injuries as the brutal apartheid regime’s agents stripped him naked, tortured him in the most perverted manner, and denied him medical treatment so he could die in agony; he died
September 12.

More than 15,000 people attended his funeral which was held in King William’s town in the Eastern Cape. He was buried at Ginsberg cemetery near Buffalo City. Today there is the Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance and Biko’s home in Ginsberg is now a national monument, thanks to the work of Biko’s son Nkosinathi and the Steve Biko Foundation.

The police at the time claimed that Biko had died of a hunger strike, something which the majority of Blacks never believed at all. In 1997, 20 years after his murder, five former members of the apartheid security forces applied to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for amnesty for their involvement in the murder of Biko.

It is heartening to note that this year the Steve Biko Foundation organized a series of cultural events under the banner: “Biko 30:30” to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Biko.

“Biko is a hero to us Black people, Black with a capital B,” said Sizwesonke Mahlangu, a university student. “We must continue to search for Biko’s spirit to fight white racism, to restore our dignity as Black people and to treasure the work of our heroes who
sacrificed their lives for us.”


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