News | Opinion | Editorials
On this day, 43 years ago, Steve Biko died alone in a cell at a prison hospital in Pretoria. The previous day, he had been manacled, naked, and thrown in the back of a police vehicle and driven 1 100km to Pretoria from Port Elizabeth.
His police captors would deny assaulting him, claiming he had attacked them with a chair and they were forced to subdue him. But an autopsy showed Biko had suffered a massive brain haemorrhage, which later caused his body systems to fail. In brutalising Biko, the apartheid cops and their masters hoped they could silence a strong voice for the liberation of black people.
Yet, they did the opposite and Biko’s spirit lives on as African people struggle to find meaning in their lives, even after ostensibly obtaining political freedom in 1994. Biko was influenced by the philosophy of Black Consciousness, as espoused by thinkers like Frantz Fanon.
Although Biko and his supporters in SA wanted an end to apartheid and believed the new society which would replace it should be socialist in nature, they also focused on the psychological empowerment of blacks.
Biko believed that black people needed to rid themselves of any sense of racial inferiority – an idea he expressed by popularising the slogan “black is beautiful”. Yet Biko, as demonstrated by his relationship with then newspaper editor Donald Woods, was anything but racist and would have criticised those who try to use Black Consciousness to push a black racism.
Biko would also have been disturbed by the hijacking of many aspects of his philosophy by the ANC, whose members once targeted BC adherents even more viciously than they did the enforcers of apartheid.
He should be remembered, therefore, as a national hero and his legacy must not be appropriated by anyone.
For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.