Biko freed minds to end apartheid

Yesterday the country marked the 30th anniversary of Steve Bantu Biko's death in detention.

Yesterday the country marked the 30th anniversary of Steve Bantu Biko's death in detention.

The revolutionary young leader and liberation philosopher is widely credited as the father of Black Consciousness in South Africa.

Belated accolades being heaped on Biko in the media, at lectures, in poetry, drama and other activities are significant steps towards giving this martyr of our liberation the honour he deserves.

The tribute last night by President Thabo Mbeki stands out as the most significant of these honours.

It is a tacit admission by the ruling ANC that it did not fight apartheid alone and that it does not hold the copyright on the liberation struggle.

Acknowledging Biko this way could be extending an olive branch to millions of Biko's followers in the Black Consciousness Movement.

Many are still offended by the ANC's attempt to destroy Biko's movement by characterising it as a CIA creation aimed at stopping the march to power by the then Soviet-leaning movement.

Biko's demonisation led to internecine violence in the 1980s, exploited by the regime, that killed thousands.

Time was wasted as comrades hunted down comrades instead of the apartheid state.

No significant landmark in our country yet bears Biko's name, but Mbeki's move has inadvertently helped exorcise the ANC's demons.

He might even succeed where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission failed by reconciling comrades in the liberation movement turned into bitter enemies by ideological differences.

This is an important brick that has been missing in South Africa's attempt to forge one nation from our fractious past.

We have so far deluded ourselves by thinking that nation building is only about uniting blacks and whites while ignoring the need to forge peace among blacks.

Mbeki's gesture marks a significant milestone in redressing this glaring delusion.

His courage makes him stand out as a true statesman and a nation builder. And it brings to life his vision of an African renaissance.