Lest We Forget: Steve Biko ~ 18 Dec 1946-12 Sept 1977 ~ An Anti-Apartheid Hero


I have been struggling with this story for over an hour, and still I feel I have no place to tell this story. I am ill-equipped, poorly-educated, and not nearly strong enough to tell the story without vitriol and hatred. How can I give this man the honour he deserves? And yet this day could not pass without mentioning Stephen Bantu Biko, the man who lived, bled, and ultimately died – naked, hungry and tortured on the back of a Land Rover as he was being driven near 700 miles to the ‘closest’ hospital for treatment to injuries.

When you think of Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko, Trevor Noah’s story seems that of a charmed life. Even now that I know apartheid is technically over, the knowledge does nothing to assuage my aching heart; it does nothing to ease the thought of suffering, oppression, violence, brutality and large-scale ethnic cleansing of people on their own land.

Steve Biko: We May Choose To forgive; But We Must Never Forget

According to Wikipedia, on 18 August 1977, Biko was arrested at a police roadblock under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967. He was interrogated by officers of the Port Elizabeth security police.  This interrogation took place in the Police Room 619 of the Sanlam Building in Port Elizabeth. The interrogation lasted twenty-two hours and included torture and beatings resulting in a coma. He suffered a major head injury while in police custody at the Walmer Police Station, in a suburb of Port Elizabeth. Steve Biko was chained to a window grille for a day.

On 11 September 1977, police loaded him in the back of a Land Rover, naked and restrained in manacles, and began the 1,100-kilometre (680 mi) drive to Pretoria to take him to a prison with hospital facilities. He was nearly dead owing to the previous injuries. He died shortly after arrival at the Pretoria prison, on 12 September. The police claimed his death was the result of an extended hunger strike; but an autopsy revealed multiple bruises and abrasions. It also revealed that he ultimately succumbed to a brain haemorrhage from the massive injuries to the head, which many saw as strong evidence that he had been brutally clubbed by his captors. Then Donald Woods, a journalist, editor and close friend of Biko’s, along with Helen Zille, later leader of the Democratic Alliance political party, exposed the truth behind Biko’s death.

It is not enough to say Steve Biko died that we might live. We must live WELL. We must be free and free indeed.

I do not know if there is a God. If there is, is it not this same God who told these people to commit the atrocities they did? And surely they knew Him first so perhaps they get first dibs on favours? I don’t know. But if there is an afterlife, I hope you found rest there. And if you are but dust, then we who are alive, we remember.

Thank you.

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