Tuesday marked the 40th anniversary of the death of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) leader and one of the greatest sons of Africa, Bantubonke Stephen Biko.
White Minority paranoia proved its powerlessness in the way it treated Biko. He refused to be blindfolded or neutralised like other leaders of the liberation movement.
Biko was the first president of the South African Students Organisation (SASO) and Biko allowed a transition from Multi-racialism to Black Consciousness.
After 1970 he began a scathing attack on White liberalism and all the tenets it stood for.
Biko held very strong beliefs. To him Whites had to prove themselves by directing all their energy into educating other Whites.
Further, they had to prepare other Whites to accept a future system of majority rule. Unless that was realised, Blacks would go it alone, he insisted.
Biko’s Black Consciousness (BC) was based on the notions of “Black and proud” and “Black is beautiful”.
He discouraged Black people from asking for alms, begging, and relying on hand-outs.
That led him and his movement encouraging and initiating the “Self-Help Projects”.
As a result they started health clinics, initiated and consolidated gardening projects.
The June 16 1976 Uprising was against the imposition of Afrikaans, thus putting all Black learners at a disadvantage in their education.
Biko’s fearlessness as a leader inspired others.
He died of brain damage at the hands of the police after being driven kilometres naked and manacled in the back of a police van.
He was caught by the authorities on his way from Cape Town, from a planned series of meetings with the likes of Struggle warriors, the late Dr Neville Alexander. He had met PAC founding President Robert Sobukwe under clandestine conditions.
The nation needs to honour Mama Nokuzola Biko and her daughter-in law, Ntsiki (Biko’s wife) for such a son and husband who became a wonderful leader.
As an ordinary human being, he was far away from being perfect. What he did as part of the leadership collective and support from the ground, made a difference.
There is a distortion being spread around that June 1976 uprising (initiative of Biko’s BCM) was not related or initiated by the Black Consciousness Movement, with the argument going further that the uprising was spontaneous.
Truth has a way of making its way and expose lies, and where and when did the students make the placards and the planning of what to do at the school’s assembly point?
Biko’s BCM led to the 1976 uprising, resulting in the swelling of the armies of the liberation movements such as MK and APLA.
Even Professor Wally Serote noted “SASO gave ‘to the ANC oxygen and new life, which the movement desperately needed – youth of the South African people, tempered in defiance in action’.
The people of South Africa must claim and own their History and not any political party because they drive a partisan agenda.
People that can be trusted with the truth are academics and independent thinkers, and not politicians.
His parent didn’t make a mistake in naming him Bantubonke (people) because he died for the people; Biko owafel’a Bantu.
Forty years after he passed on, his words still reverberate even in this new South Africa so-called Rainbow Nation, where black people are still demeaned, degraded, devalued, disrespected and discriminated against.
“Black Man You Are On Your Own”! Biko taight us.
His commitment and sacrifice for the emancipation of his people and his country proved him a revolutionary, meeting other comrades from different ideologies.
A revolutionary is one who is for a total transformation of society, so was Biko.
That is crowned by the fact that he didn’t see Black Consciousness as the end in itself but as a means toward freedom. He once declared “it will be irrelevant in a colourless and non-exploitative, egalitarian society”.
What Biko said more than 40 years is again true, the idea he died for lives, the Freedom we are under.
But it is up to us to honour that supreme sacrifice. “It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die” (Bantu Stephen Biko). Those who are responsible for his death lived for an idea that died.