Thu Oct 27 11:07:27 SAST 2016

Steve Biko's ideas will live forever

By unknown | Sep 10, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Sandile Memela

Sandile Memela

It is September, the blossoming of spring. The more you hear about Steve Biko, the more you wonder why he was killed.

What a terrible waste of a young life. He was only 30 years old. But Biko is not dead because a prophet's spirit cannot be killed.

But why should people still care about a man who did little in his life except engage in ideas, translate them into practical programmes and was an example of the psychological change 30 years ago?

Some individuals have the power to shape the way others think about culture, identity, history and the meaning of life. Biko was a dreamer, prophet, writer, intellectual and philosopher.

So how can a man have so many esteemed qualities if he was a university drop-out?

Biko quit medicine at the Medical School in the University of Natal to be an agent of the change he wanted to see among his people in his own community. He lived and worked in Ginsberg in blood-soaked Eastern Cape.

There is no doubt that his death on September 12 1977 had a huge and almost continuous effect on race relations, politics, psychology and history in this country.

Thank God and the ancestors that his death has been cleared and less of a controversial matter now.

There are many other unsung heroes and heroines who disappeared, died and were buried under mysterious circumstances. We must not forget them when we acknowledge, celebrate and recognise Biko's pivotal contribution to get us where we are today.

Biko's death is one of the first cases in recorded apartheid brutality to reveal the white man's inhuman nature to the black man. Biko was monstrously killed. His head was banged against iron rails and walls simply because he dared to stand up for his rights and fight back when he was slapped around.

We should remember today that sometimes when men are drunk with power and want to hold on to it indefinitely, they will not hesitate to kill and murder those who stand up to them.

Biko was a person condemned because of his thoughts, ideas and convictions.

At that time, South Africa was a heinous state. The regime did not hesitate to snuff out a life as if it was a cigarette.

Biko was not an educated lawyer, a qualified doctor or a learned professor. He was an ordinary township man. It was precisely for being an ordinary township man who liked to engage others intellectually, hang out and sometimes enjoy a drink or two that he was brutally killed.

I do not remember if anyone was found guilty of murder or of hindering the aspirations of a better life for all for Biko's death.

But the outcome and manner of his death is something that continues to present this new society with a political problem: How do we live in peace when murderers are walking among us?

The answer is, we should be thankful that for the first time in almost 400 years we have a peace-loving and legitimate government that wants national unity and social cohesion.

Biko's death should always remind us that no one should be killed because of his ideas, thoughts or convictions.

Thank God and the ancestors that Nelson Mandela did not hang and that our government espouses and practices freedom of speech and of the media.

Sandile Memela is spokesman for the arts and culture ministry. He writes in his personal capacity.


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