21 September 2011

Steve Biko's ideologies still relevant and alive!

The 12th of September in the South African calendar marks the untimely death of one of the greatest Black Consciousness leaders, Steve Biko, who died in police custody in 1977.

Biko, a fierce anti-apartheid activist, believed that the best way for black folks to emerge victorious in the struggle against apartheid was for them not to succumb to the white man's suggestion that being black is the colour of inferiority. Biko realised that ‘the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.'

With today's youth facing different challenges, many arguments erupted during the memorial Biko lectures that were held around the country. The main lecture, themed ‘Evil under the sun: the death of Steve Biko' was held at the University of Cape Town and facilitated by the Steve Biko foundation.

Reverend Allan Boesak, who delivered his memorial lecture at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban, lashed out at today's black elite saying they have abandoned Biko's principles of black consciousness. "They have made alliances with the old wealthy elite, alliances against the masses and are part of the small 20% of the country's top elite who now gobble 75% of our GDP, while 53% of our masses live in dire poverty. That is not black consciousness."

Other arguments bordered around the relevance of Black Consciousness, with many saying it is still very much so, as stressed by Zama Ndlovu, a Johannesburg based writer and blogger on the Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader page.
She says the process of redefining herself within and beyond her blackness is not a political one but very spiritual. "Stating that black is beautiful still remains an academic exercise for the mind. The real tests are in everyday life. To live consciously as a black person requires more than simply speaking one's mother tongue and knowing a few things about one's history but requires vigilant patrol over one's thoughts and feelings on all things black."

Bantu Stephen Biko was born on the 18th of December 1946 in the Eastern Cape. After primary and secondary schooling he enrolled for a medical degree where he was expelled due to his involvement in anti-apartheid activism. Throughout his political career, he was subjected to gruesome beatings, harassments, arrests, detentions, and banning orders by the notorious security forces of the apartheid government.

On August 18, 1977 Biko and his colleague and comrade, Peter Cyril Jones were arrested at a roadblock after they had travelled to Cape Town to lend their weight in an effort to get all political organisations fighting for liberation to agree on a broader program of co-operation. They were tortured severely and Biko sustained a massive brain haemorrhage.
On the 11th of September, Biko was transported to Pretoria central prison, a twelve-hour journey, naked in the back of a police van without a medical escort.

Biko died the next day, on the 12th of September 1977, an eventuality he never feared, hence his infamous quote: "It is better to die for an idea that will live than to live for an idea that will die."