STEVE BIKO: Tribute to a political hero


He sacrificed his life to make what South Africa is today

By Joel Savage

In the political history of South Africa, many were those who fought against the evil apartheid, oppression, mass arrests, detention without trial etc. Along the line with Nelson Mandela, Oliver Thambo, Walter Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe and others, in the struggle to emancipate blacks from the iron fists of Apartheid, was Steve Bantu Biko, who died in detention before he could see the fall of Apartheid nineteen years ago, in the Republic of South Africa.

Although Steve Biko is gone, his great achievements, sacrifice and non-violent struggle to free South Africa, under the previous white minority rule, will always be remembered. Steve Biko, the man popularly known as the “Father of Black Consciousness Movement” was born in King William’s Town, Cape Province in South Africa, on December 18, 1946. He lost his father at a tender age of four.

After his primary and secondary school education in South Africa, he left to Lovedale institution in Alice. He received his higher education at the Roman Catholic, Marian hill in Natal and entered the medical school of the University of Natal in 1965. As an active member of the National Union of South African Students(NUSAS) his heart was increasingly in politics. He left NUSAS and formed the South African Students Organisation (SASO).

Regarded as one of the fearless critics in South Africa, along the line with Nelson Mandela, despite both having different views and options in the struggle, Biko faced the white regime squarely. Not by violence. but through his speeches and writings which he named “I write what I like” Truth is bitter than the bile. The white regime thought his writings posed a threat to national security.

He writes “Black consciousness seeks to talk to the black man, in a language of his own. It is only by making familiar the basic set up in the black world, that one will be aware of the urgent need for reawakening of the sleeping masses.” He stressed, “It urges black people to judge themselves as human beings and not to be fooled by the white society, which has white-washed itself to enjoy privileges at the expense of blacks.”

Biko pointed out that the logic behind white domination, is to prepare the black man to serve and give them much respect. Even in sports the white man, wants to do things for themselves, all by themselves, by keeping blacks to stand at touchlines to witness the game they are playing. In his writings, he always stressed and talked openly against whites, saying that “There is no doubt that the colour question in South Africa politics, was originally introduced for economic reasons. Because the selfish white leaders installed a barrier between blacks and whites, so that they could enjoy belongs to the blacks.

In order to avoid influencing the various black groups in South Africa, which gave him much support and recognition, Steve Biko was arrested and detained many times under Section 6, of the Terrorism Act in South Africa. In many cases, he was always released. But on August 18, 1977, when Steve Biko was arrested and detained under the same offence of terrorism, little did everybody know that he would not be seen again. He was taken to Port Elizabeth, stripped naked tortured and beaten to death. Those responsible for his murder, including the minister of Justice and Police, Jimmy Kruger, enjoyed it with impunity and lied Biko died while on hunger strike, yet his autopsy stated that he died of brain damage. Fearing the worst to happen, the medical reports received by Jimmy Kruger were concealed from the public.

It is unfortunate that, Steve Biko wasn’t alive to see what he sacrificed his life for, the fall of apartheid. But on the eve of the 33rd anniversary of his death, it is worthwhile to say that “September 12 of every year, should be declared as a holiday in the Republic of South Africa, in honour of that great man. If a day in America is observed as a holiday in honour of the Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King Jnr, then late Steve Biko, should be given the same recognition too in South Africa.

Steve Biko died at the age of 31. He left behind a widow and two boys aged seven and three by then.


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