Alkebu-lan Revivalist Movement
35th Anniversary Tribute to a
Stephen Bantu Biko
(18th December 1946-12 September 1977)
On this day (12th September), 35 years ago (1977), the man who came to be known as the greatest martyr of the anti-apartheid movement of Azania, South Africa, Stephen Bantu Biko, was brutally murdered by the genocidal Anglo-Boar (British-Dutch descendants) regime.
Stephen Bantu Biko was born a Xhosa, on 18 December 1946 in King Willia's Town (so called), in present-day Eastern Cape Province. He was a medical student at the University of Natal Medical School, who became a student-leader activist against the system of white minority rule, aka Apartheid. Initially involved with the multiracial National Union of South African Students, Baba Biko became disillusioned with the "hypocrisy of white liberalism," and grew convinced that "Black people" needed to organise separately and independently. Inspired by the likes of Franz Fanon and Omowale Malcolm X, he helped found and became the first president of the South African Students' Organisation (SASO), in 1968. With its emphasis on political self-reliance, psychological emancipation and the unification of Black students, as well as Afrikan indigenous ownership of the land, SASO evolved into the powerful and influential 'Black Consciousness Movement (BCM),' which swept Azania, South Afrika throughout the 1970s.
However, this Garveyite, Race 1st philosophy and the rapid growth and radicalism of the BCM resulted in conflict with Afrikan National Congress' (ANC) brand of integrationist politics, with its reliance on white liberal patronage. This while Baba Biko and the increasingly popular BCM were advocating withdrawal from any partnerships with or help and assistance from white groups, was proving increasingly unpopular, for the, hitherto, leading anti-apartheid front. Compounded by the divide and conquer tactics of white Anglo-Boars of both right and left political persuasions, incidents of ANC supporters attacking, beating and torturing BCM activists proliferated.
Undoubtedly, this exclusive, uncompromising philosophy, as well as Steve Biko's huge and growing successes in mobilising, not just students, but the broader masses, especially the young, made him the most feared leader in Azania, South Afrika throughout the 70s. This has been attributed, not only to his magnetic personality and electrifying oratory, but also to his prolific writings, with its bold, uncompromising condemnations of white supremacy, white privilege, the duplicity of white patronage vis a vis the Afrikan liberation fight.
In 1970, Steve Biko married Ntsiki Mashalaba - a committed activist in her own right - and had 5 children: Nkosinathi, Samora, Lerato, Motlatsi and Hlumelo - Biko: all notably and commendably given Afrikan names. In 1972 he was expelled from the University of Natal due to his activism, thus disrupting his pursuit of a medical career. He became honorary president of the Black People's Convention (BPC), founded as a flagship of the BCM. He was further banned by the apartheid regime in February 1973.
Not allowed to speak to more than one person at a time or to speak in public, to write publicly or speak to the media and restricted to his home town, Biko was remained determined to continue the fight and continued writing in the alias 'Frank Talk'. There was also a ban on publicly quoting anything he said. Such was the 'terror' he presented to the otherwise powerful machinery of oppression. His movement was also restricted to the Eastern Cape, where he, nonetheless, formed a number of grassroots organizations adherent to the principle of self-reliance: Zanempilo, the Zimele Trust Fund (which helped support former political prisoners and their families), Njwaxa Leather-Works Project and the Ginsberg Education Fund. Biko and the BCM also helped to organise the student protests culminating in the Soweto Uprising (16th June 1976), which was brutally crushed by the Anglo-Boar regime by murdering hundreds of school children and young people.
Consequently, the Anglo-Boar regime intensified its attempts to repress Steve Biko. But the young, 30 year-old Freedom Fighter, with an irrepressible will to free his people would not relent. On 18 August 1977, they arrested him under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967. Police officers Harold Snyman, Gideon Nieuwoudt and several others interrogated, beat and tortured him mercilessly, until he fell into a coma; chained to a window grille: still unbowed; still untamed. On 11 September 1977, they loaded Baba Biko's half dead body into the back of Land Rover, naked and in manacles, to transport him almost 700 miles to Pretoria prison. He was pronounced dead shortly after arrival, on 12 September. The police claimed his death was the result of an extended hunger strike, but an autopsy revealed multiple bruises, abrasions and massive head injuries causing a brain hemorrhage: strong evidence that he was viciously clubbed to death.
Over 10,000 people attended his funeral, as millions worldwide mourned, the barbarous assassination of this brave young champion. In callus defiance, the then-minister of police, Jimmy Kruger said, "... I am not sorry about Mr. Biko. It leaves me cold." During the subsequent trial, it was claimed that Biko's injuries were the result of a self-inflicted suicide attempt. The judge ultimately ruled out murder charges as there were no witnesses. But the family and other activists continued to seek justice. The five policemen blamed for his death sought amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1997), investigating human rights abuses under Apartheid; but the Biko family fiercely oppose this, contending that "Amnesty could rob victims' relatives of justice."
Although the policemen later admitted to savagely beating Baba Biko, though denying responsibility for his death, on 7 October 2003, the ANC government of South Africa's Justice Ministry announced that the five policemen accused of killing Biko would not be prosecuted, also citing insufficient evidence and claiming that the time limit for prosecution had elapsed. At the same time some Afrikan war criminals were still languishing in prison and the said government was reportedly persecuting Mama Namzamo 'Winnie' Mandela for alleged crimes under apartheid.
This and the recent massacre of hundreds of platinum mine workers in South Afrika, as well as the failure of successive ANC governments to address the land issue (81% of which is white owned, though less than 10% of the population) as well as the issue of redistribution of wealth and power (whites control over 90-95% of the economy) would make Baba Steve Biko and all who have sacrificed their lives to see Azania, South Afrika free turn in their graves.
But as sure as Amen-Ra (the Sun) will rise, the blood of our people will not be shed in vain, as long as the fight for liberation continues, because, as that great group of choresters, Sweet Honey in the Rock, have so often chanted:
"We who believe in freedom will not rest until it comes".
On this day of commemoration, the Alkebu-Lan Revivalist Movement invites Afrikans around the world to hail and honour the name and ultimate sacrifice of Baba Steve Bantu Biko and pay tribute to his wife, Mama Ntsiki Mashalaba, his children and entire family, for the huge sacrifices they've also made; as we continue to demand justices for the murder of our Father and Hero and all who have been slaughtered in the cause of Afrikan Liberation.
Lazima Tutashinda Mbilashaka
(We will conquer without a doubt)
Unite, Organise Now or Perish!
Rise, You Mighty People!
Bro Ldr Mbandaka
(Spiritual Leader – ARM)
P.S. We will be circulating excerpts from one of Baba Steve Biko's essays within a couple of days.