Editorial | Biko’s black consciousness dream: A stirring ideology for Africans

Thandisizwe Mgudlwa

Steve Biko was in the forefront of a grassroots anti-apartheid campaign known as the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) during the late 1960s and 1970s. His ideas were articulated in a series of articles published under the pseudonym, Frank Talk.

He also founded the South African Student Organisation (SASO) in 1968, in an effort to represent the interests of black students.

This year marks 45 years anniversary since the death of Biko, when he was brutally assassinated on September 12, 1977 while in detention.

He was arrested on August 18, 1977 by the apartheid police.

In 1977, Biko broke his banning order by travelling to Cape Town, hoping to meet Unity Movement leader Neville Alexander and deal with growing dissent in the Western Cape branch of the BCM, which was dominated by Marxists like Johnny Issel.

The struggle icon drove to the city with his friend Peter Jones on August 17, but Alexander refused to meet with Biko, fearing that he was being monitored by the police.

Biko and Jones drove back toward King William’s Town, but on August 18 they were stopped at a police roadblock near Grahamstown.

He was then beaten, starved and then chained naked in a Pretoria Central Prison.

Since then, the country has celebrated the life of Biko – the leader of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa.

Biko’s death was described by the family’s lawyer, Sir Sydney Kentridge, as “a miserable and lonely death on a mat on a stone floor in a prison cell”.

And to this day, it is not known by the public how he died.

On the 45th anniversary of Biko’s death, several leaders and activists have payed respect to one of South Africa’s finest sons.

Anton Emmanuel @AntonEmmanuel2 tweeted: “45 years today since the murder of Steve Biko, architect of black consciousness and midwife of my activism. Rooted in knowing one’s history, his legacy remains relevant – resistance and pride in the face of widespread oppression.”

During Biko’s commemoration on Sunday at the Steve Biko Centre in Ginsberg, Eastern Cape, Azapo President Nelvis Qekema said Biko would be appalled to see the state black people are in since democracy.

“If Steve Biko found us in this condition, he would cry,” Qekema said. He added that this means Biko’s death was in vain.

“After 28 years the wealth of this country is still controlled by 10% of white people. Biko would cry. If Steve came and saw that black schools are using pit latrines, pit toilets, Steve Biko would cry,” Qekema reiterated.

Zwelinzima Vavi, South African Federation of Trade Unions(SAFTU) general secretary, believes that slain anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko would be disappointed in the state of South Africa at the moment.

Vavi noted that the high cost of living and the levels of corruption in the country, were not the ideals Biko stood for.

South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi believes that slain anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko would be disappointed in the state of South Africa at the moment.

He highlighted that the high cost of living and the levels of corruption in the country, were not the ideals Biko stood for.

Vavi stated that South Africans are losing confidence in parliamentarians solving the challenges the country faces.

Vavi was joined by various opposition parties who gathered at the Steve Biko Centre to remember the late struggle hero.

Vavi said the current crop of leaders are failing the principles that Biko upheld. “Almost two thirds of our people are speaking through their feet, they no longer have an interest in that bourgeoisie arrangement that is taking place in parliament.

That’s why they are occupying the streets on their own, protesting on a daily basis fighting their own battles”, says Vavi.

PAC and AZAPO have committed to work together to fulfill the realization of Biko’s ideas. PAC president, Mzwanele Nyhontso says this collaboration will benefit both parties.

Nyhontso commented: “This unity unites the social forces behind the leadership of the Africans and Black Consciousness organizations.

Steve Biko and Robert Sobukhwe are honorary leaders this is to ensure we create socialist Azania”, says Nyhontso.

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa commenting on his weekly newsletter said: “He never got to see in his lifetime what he called ‘the glittering prize’, the realisation of true humanity. Writing about this ideal, he famously said: ‘In time we shall be in a position to bestow upon South Africa the greatest gift possible – a more human face’.”

“He was cut down in his prime by those who feared the power and resonance of his ideas of self-liberation and his efforts to infuse black men and women with pride and dignity,” added Ramaphosa.

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