Remembering Steve Biko
UKZN and the Umtapo Centre co-hosted the Steve Biko Memorial Lecture themed: SA: The Unfinished Revolution on the Westville campus on the 41st anniversary of the lauded anti-apartheid activist’s death.
Ms Sibongile Mkhabela, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, who spoke on: SA’s Flagrant Abuse of Women and Children: The Need for Moral Regeneration, recalled where she was when she received the news of Biko’s death. Mkhabela, a recipient of the National Order of Luthuli (Silver), was in a cell at John Vorster Square in Johannesburg and vividly described the anguish she felt. ‘Steve is gone,’ were the first thoughts that ran through her mind as she tried to get to grips with the news that the Black Consciousness Movement leader had been killed by the Security Branch while in detention.
‘Understand that by the age of 30, Steven Bantu Biko was brutally murdered by a brutal system,’ said Mkhabela. ‘The ideas and actions of young educated people with a mission threatened a powerful state that could not be shaken, even by the threat of war. Those who threatened war were a bit of a pain but those who presented transformative ideas were the real threat and there’s no way that Steve Biko could live,’ said the former student leader and activist.
Adding, Mkhabela said, ‘We have indeed abandoned the democracy project. We took a detour and we don’t seem to be able as a country to find our way,’ she said, while also comparing South Africa to a “country at war” as far as the abuse of women was concerned.
Also addressing the gathering, Community Development Practitioner and political activist Mr Pandelani Nefolovhodwe said while the South African constitution was considered by some to be the ‘best constitution’ in the world, it had ‘failed to advance Black people’. ‘Our people do not eat constitutions; neither do they wear it to protect themselves against racists and White supremacists,’ said Nefolovhodwe, who added that he was convinced the ‘South Africa we live in does not meet the South Africa as contemplated by Biko.’ ‘The existence of true humanity is dependent on an egalitarian society,’ he said. ‘There is neither reconciliation nor rainbowism.’
In his address, Dr James Marsh, Umtapo Chairman, said South Africa ‘isn’t going into a crisis. It is in a crisis.’ ‘We are heading for tough times,’ he said.
UKZN’s Acting Director of University Relations, Dr Sally Frost, referred to Biko ‘as one of the greatest freedom fighters this country has ever known’.
Poet Inyonyama Yamagama of the Westville Student Poetry Society delivered a moving piece on decolonising minds.
Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer
Photographs: Itumeleng Masa