Editorial: Biko's ideology must live
In 1977, an apartheid minister of justice, Jimmy Kruger, announced that Steve Biko had died in his cell at a Pretoria prison after a week-long hunger strike. He would go on to insist that police were not at all to blame for Biko’s death, spouting some nonsense about doctors who had examined the Black Consciousness leader and found nothing amiss.
It was all lies.
Biko was the 20th person to die in security police custody in 18 months. He was murdered by an unrepentant white supremacist regime.
And in the weeks following his murder, a number of media investigations would reveal the lies of Kruger, and the criminality of the regime.
Twenty years later, four former police officers, including Colonel Gideon Nieuwoudt, appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and admitted to killing Steve Biko.
And now, 40 years on, we read transcripts of Kruger’s speeches in the days following Biko’s death, and it is impossible to be unmoved.
Biko was a giant of history.
So when political parties and politicians now use the anniversary of his death to trot out Biko in a plea for relevance, to further their own ambition, as in the case of the Democratic Alliance, and to cushion their own survival, as in the case of Jacob Zuma, we must resist the Mandelaisation of Biko.
We must resist too the dissolution of his legacy, his ideas and his actual words into cheap rhetoric.
We must remember Biko by continuing the struggle against racism.
We must remember Biko’s own resistance to patronising colonial liberalism.
We must assert this as a struggle against racism in all its complexity, in the lived, subtle and insidious indignities – and their associated and accumulated ill-feeling – in our realities.