A Letter to Steve Bantu Biko

2014-09-30 08:43

Dear Brethren Biko. 

My most valued leader, Steve Biko, you need no tributes from me. You are an incomparable and extraordinary man who at the age of 30 had already acquired a towering status in the hearts and minds of countless thousands of young blacks throughout the length and breadth of South Africa. This marks the end of your commemorative Month, a period during which the Black Consciousness family celebrated your life.

A fact that is often lost sight of in much that one reads about you, (Steve Biko) is that you were a mere 23 years when you developed your own thinking and ideas about black consciousness. You not only developed the ideas in splendid isolation, you worked with friends and fellow students who gathered around you and formed what was clearly an intellectual cell. It was out of that cell that a movement developed much along the lines of similar social change and revolutionary intellectual movements throughout the history of Europe. This came about not because you were any more brilliant a scholar than any of your colleagues. Cause you were not. You did not possess wealth of resources and financial backing to attract others to you and to your ideas. What you did extremely well was to read.

Steve you were a voracious reader. You read everything you could lay your hands on. You understood the politics of decolonisation in Africa and India. Steve you had insight into the anti-imperial wars throughout Africa and in Vietnam. And he had a critical understanding of the politics of the civil rights movement in the United States. Black Consciousness for you was moulded by a diversity of intellectual forces and fountains: from the liberation history of South Africa, the pan Africanism of Kwame Nkrumah, the African nationalism of Jomo Kenyatta, the negritude of the west African scholars like Leopold Sadar Senghor, Aime Cesare, Fidel Castro, Patrice Lumumba and others.

In all these years I grew to know you, my conviction never wavered that you are the most important political leader in the entire country, and quite simply the greatest man I have ever had the privilege to learn about your life, beliefs and philosophy.  As we commemorated your enduring legacy this month of September, memories of your death haunts me and all Africans who believed for the struggle. "Steve, you are not dead, you have given us self-reliance, self-belief, self-love, self-appreciation, courage and a strong desire to see Africa free. I have often wondered at the meaning of your death, as many have and still do as our history and destiny as a South African people, unravels daily. There’s no doubt that we are a very different country now politically and socially speaking.

I don’t think we have attained that glittering prize you so confidently spoke about. Biko, what would you say about the current state of affairs in our country-Our growing neo-liberal democracy? I have several reactions to such questions. Perhaps they reflect the need for some kind of assurance and certainty… for the kind of confidence that you epitomized, in a South Africa which I think, can be a very confusing place today.

I wonder of course, whether you would agree that our current dispensation is based on a cop-out… a sell-out? Yes, we do have black people in government, in fact dominating it. Apartheid was dismantled formally, and theoretically, we may live where we may please, go where we please, and so on. However the divide between the rich and the poor has grown ever wider, and black poverty, homelessness, unemployment, lack of service delivery, hunger are amazingly, after over a decade of so-called democracy, rife.

In South Africa today there's still a clash between black and white and the current government is led on the basis of colour, creed n political credentials. You were a man whom had love for his people; you didn't see death as existing in this earth while considering freedom for your people. Death as many may think scary and unaccepted you heartedly accepted it for your people to be free. You shed your blood for us to be where we are as a nation today and you faced the law keepers who were stubborn and couldn't recognise the torture you went through.

Our country was sold to the gods of neoliberal capitalism and sacrificed to its inherent programme of entrenching and sustaining inequality and injustice. This would account for, Biko, why the Black Consciousness Movement, the movement which sustained and carried forward the liberation struggle during the late sixties onwards, was summarily kicked out of the negotiations. Instead, the servants of capital and their apartheid lieutenants and collaborators, were given priority over us.

Can you imagine the painful irony of this? Of course, I’m not lamenting the past. I want us to note this because there has been an effort to obliterate that part of our collective history during which the Black Consciousness Movement was the primary active liberation movement… a refusal to even acknowledge its existence. So in the interests of a more accurate history, and the lessons this can offer us, I want us to note this historical fact. I’m afraid, Biko, that white privilege continues in this country, secured by the initiatives of white capital. Black people have been sold into this system by the usual collaborators -the equivalents of the non-white you spoke about years ago, such as tricameral parliamentarians and homeland leaders who claimed that they could fight for black people from within the system, according to the dictates laid down by their white masters. For those of us who remain, the old and the young, men and women, I think we must commit ourselves to take forward the project of revolution, to use the philosophy of Black Consciousness as a tool of analysis and for bringing together Black people together. I know that there are many young Black consciousness activists today who have heeded your philosophy, Steve. In many respects they’re young poets, writers, artists, revolutionaries of the new millennium who are doing considerable hard work in countering that false understanding of ourselves imposed by hegemonic notions of culture, education, religion and economics, which you mention in your definition of Black Consciousness.

Biko you are a legend that is in the same caliber as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Robert Sobukwe and many others, it is a pity that we have decided to embrace you only on September and not everyday as other legends are being hailed. Today I enjoy the fruits of freedom and exercise the rights of my democracy because of you Biko. I converse and dine with those that once where said to be superior than myself. I am liberated, educated. I am a product of the Black Consciousness.

I am convinced that we can re-teach the values of Ubuntu, and return the spirit of genuine sincere activism among the African which will allow him to fight for what he deserves and attain it. You once asked the question, and I paraphrase, what makes the black man fail to tick, what makes him fail to die for what he believes in? Does he lack desire or is he simply a defeated person? I argue that he is defeated and who wouldn’t be in his circumstance and recent past, but he can redeem himself. He needs to once again organize and through community, reclaim his dignity, living in conditions of security and happiness. Just like the BCM did, and the UDF did to defeat apartheid. To add to this, the black middle class must be lobbied. We need the middle class now more than ever to contribute what it has accumulated both in financial and intellectual resources to help build a better life for all.

Thank you for giving your life for us Biko. You are like to our democracy, what Christ is for the Christian faith. Thirty four years later. Your spirit truly lives on!!

News24 Voices Terms & Conditions.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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