Let's live up to Steve Biko's legacy for a better life for all

Today marks the anniversary of Steve Biko's death
Today marks the anniversary of Steve Biko's death

The period of reflection on the time and life of Steve Biko puts those who cherish the Biko legacy in a precarious position.

Many of us have resorted to throwing the Biko legacy into the dustbin of history, and those who are privileged to possess the authority to write history have thrown it to the fringes of our collective national memory.

The true legacy of Biko cannot be obliterated from our national memory, and neither can it be thrown out of the broader political discourse of the post-apartheid South Africa.

The Biko legacy is more relevant to us as South Africans than ever before. At the core of Biko's Black Consciousness message is the need for those who are affected by political oppression and economic exploitation to change their mental attitude so as to free themselves from all forms of subjugation.

Ours is the most unequal society in the world, and this is confirmed by the 2013 Global Wealth Report on global inequality.

The seriousness of the inequality challenge is further reinforced by the assertion made in the report that two of the richest people in South Africa own the same as 50% of the population.

Poverty and inequality have reduced most of the people to a state of economic exclusion and human degradation. We need to articulate and act on the legacy of Biko, such that it pricks our conscience and propels us to collective action aimed at narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor.

The warning to billionaires by US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is relevant to the South African situation. "Your greed is destroying [SA], and we are going to end your greed"; this would be Biko's message to the super-wealthy of SA.

Such a warning should not only be a veiled threat but it should be accompanied by fierce contestation around what would be the best economic policies that would liberate our people from the degradation of poverty.

Biko's legacy directs all of us to review the deteriorating economic situation in our country, which has left many families without food on their tables.

The decline of the mining industry, which for years has been the backbone of our economy, has left many people faced with poverty.

Despite the recent agreement signed by unions, business and government, the looming retrenchments in the mining and steel industries would ultimately result in more people becoming poor and more families starving.

The Biko legacy would direct all the stakeholders to grow the economy instead of some short-sighted politicians insisting on taking over mines and banks.

Biko's legacy should not only direct us to seeking a balanced economy that provides security for both employers and workers but also to renew our focus on the complex issue of land restitution.

It is commonly accepted that South Africa's programme of land restitution and racial land redistribution, so-called land reform, has moved slowly over the past 21 years.

The ANC-led government has failed to reach its target for land redistribution to date.

The problem is that the government's target is not a realistic one. If it had revised its ambitions, the goal would have been within reach.

In order to live up to Biko's legacy, we need to accelerate land reform in a constructive manner so as to lift the majority of our people out of poverty.

In our quest to reconstruct Biko's legacy, we need to go beyond what he did and locate his thinking within the harsh socioeconomic context we face today.

Faleni is DA member of legislature in the North West. He writes in his personal capacity

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