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DEFENDING BIKO FROM BEING KILLED BEYOND THE GRAVE

IMG-20180903-WA0006DEFENDING BIKO FROM BEING KILLED BEYOND THE GRAVE

By Nelvis Qekema

25 September 2018

INTRODUCTION

On 9 September 2018 I was interviewed by Power FM anchor Thabo Shole-Mashao for about an hour.  He opened the Power Perspective show by asking this question: “Is AZAPO an appropriate custodian of the Steve Biko legacy?”

When I heard that UNISA and the Steve Biko Foundation (SBF) invited President Cyril Ramaphosa to deliver the Steve Biko Memorial Lecture on 14 September 2018, I rephrased Shole-Mashao’s question to me and the Power FM listeners: “Is Ramaphosa the appropriate person to deliver the Biko Lecture?”  Perhaps the SBF was answering this question when it highlighted in its poster that Ramaphosa is a former member of both SASO and BPC.  The poster was understandably silent on how he deserted the BCM and joined the ANC because it is not the job of promotional posters to do so.  I deliberately shy away from inviting to this discussion the late AZAPO leader Muntu ka Myeza who said “renegades are seldom the best advocates of a cause they have deserted”.  Apart from the Marikana Massacre stigma, one wonders why would Ramaphosa not be “appropriate” if persons like Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Thabo Mbeki, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Trevor Manuel delivered the “Biko Lectures” at the invitation of the SBF?  Just like Ramaphosa, the Comrades are leaders of the ruling party.  I have looked at all the 19 “Biko Lectures” organised by the SBF, and I have found none delivered by the BCM founders and activists who have remained true to the BCM and the Biko legacy.  Perhaps the SBF realises that giving platform to BC adherents and leaders to ensure that Biko is not distorted or stripped of his revolutionary content may close the taps of funding.

I have taken liberty to revisit the “Biko Lectures” by the ANC leaders like Ramaphosa, Mboweni, Manuel, Mbeki and Mandela.  I have also added some aspects of the extensive response I penned to Prof Barney Pityana’s 2007 “Biko Lecture”.  I propose to demonstrate that it may be asking too much of the leaders of the ANC to defend and advance Biko’s legacy and, by extension, Black Consciousness.  Biko was critical of ANC’s multi-racial approach reflected in the terms like “all racial groups” that are found in the “Kliptown Charter” (Biko replaced “freedom” with “Kliptown” in Fragmentation of the Black Resistance, 1971, to show his attitude to the document).  It is not possible to talk about Biko without talking about BC.  Of course, you cannot talk about Biko’s legacy without talking about the BCM whose leaders were Biko’s Comrades.  To skirt around this political landmine, some political rivals of the BCM have sought to divorce Biko from the BCM which produced him.  To be sure, while Biko may have been the leading force in the founding of the BCM, the BCM produced him.  That is our chicken and egg conundrum.  If Biko is the product of the BCM, then his political legacy ought to fall squarely under the custodianship of his political movement, the leading organisation of which is AZAPO.  On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Biko’s death, Dr Kwame Turé drew a distinction between a “biological family” and a “political family”.  AZAPO and the BCM are Biko’s political family, while the Biko clan is his biological family.  Both the political and biological families need to work together, as is the case presently, in defending and advancing Biko’s legacy.

RAMAPHOSA 2018 LECTURE

Ramaphosa’s take on Biko is rather awkward.  It betrays a person who seems to feel misplaced.  He opens by saying “It is good to have this during the year when we celebrate Nelson Mandela and Mama Sisulu centenary”.  But the SBF’s 19th Biko Lecture he delivered is an annual series that had to take place in 2018 independently of the Mandela and Sisulu centenary celebrations by the ruling party. Or could it be that Ramaphosa wanted a way to show that there was something more important with which the Lecture coincided with?

Though it is an understatement, but Ramaphosa is correct that Biko’s life was “dedicated to the pursuit of freedom, equality and truth”.  A passionate reading of Biko’s writings should reveal that he prioritised the return of the land to its rightful owners – the black people.  In the SASOBPC Trial he explained a SASO Policy as follows:

“… this country is essentially a country in Africa, a continent which is inhabited always naturally by Black people, and that Whites… are here and that they may live in the country, or they may leave the country, depending on their relationship with Blacks, and their acceptance of whatever conditions Blacks in this country shall lay [down] at a certain time” (The Testimony of Steve Biko, 2017 edition, p76).

Biko was not just a “revolutionary who fiercely rejected the false hierarchy of races” as Ramaphosa says, Biko went further to reject integration or assimilation of black people into an already established system of norms.  He therefore would have rejected the concept of rainbowism as it obtains today.  Said Biko:

If by integration you understand a breakthrough into white society by blacks, an assimilation and acceptance of blacks into an already established set of norms and code of behaviour set up by and maintained by whites, then YES, I am against it. I am against the superior-inferior white-black stratification that makes the white a perpetual teacher and the black a perpetual pupil (and a poor one at that). I am against the intellectual arrogance of white people that makes them believe that white leadership is a sine qua non in this country and that whites are the divinely appointed pace-setters in progress.  I am against the fact that a settler minority should impose an entire system of values on an indigenous people.  (Black Souls in White Skins, 1970)

While Biko and his Comrades made it clear that they were not anti-white, but they stressed the fact that they were pro-black in the struggle for land reconquest and total liberation.  He made it clear that his mission was to inject life and hope to the “empty shell” of the black person whose culture and humanity has been compromised and distorted as a result of living under colonialism and white racism.  It must therefore be a subtle distortion by Ramaphosa of Biko’s political objective as a drive to “restore the true humanity of all people, black and white…”  Biko’s preoccupation was the restoration of the black people’s humanity, which was dried of real content by colonialism and white racism.  The correction of the negative humanity of white people would be a by-product of the restoration of black humanity.  This is how Biko cautions Ramaphosa against “amorphous humanity”:

In terms of the Black Consciousness approach we recognise the existence of one major force in South Africa. This is White Racism. It is the one force against which all of us are pitted. It works with unnerving totality, featuring both on the offensive and in our defence. Its greatest ally to date has been the refusal by us to club together as blacks because we are told to do so would be racialist. So, while we progressively lose ourselves in a world of colourlessness and amorphous common humanity, whites are deriving pleasure and security in entrenching white racism and further exploiting the minds and bodies of the unsuspecting black masses. (Definition of Black Consciousness, 1970).

If anything, Ramaphosa was sure to emphasise that the “quest for true humanity” does not originate with Biko.  He does not fail in his mission to make Biko a student or follower of his (Ramaphosa’s) ANC leaders:

For decades, this quest has been a constant companion to the struggles of our people for freedom, dignity and respect.  It was present at the formation of the liberation movements, during the campaigns of defiance, the strikes and the stayaways, the armed resistance.  It is found within seminal documents like the African Claims and the Freedom Charter, in the writings of Pixley ka Seme, Sol Plaatje, Alex Guma, Bessie Head, Steve Biko and others.

In the list of “seminal documents”, no courage is gathered to mention Biko’s SASO Policy Manifesto, the Mafikeng Manifesto and the Azanian Manifesto.  Yet it is a “Steve Biko Memorial Lecture”.  We should not forget that what a person chooses to include or exclude about a person being memorialised gives us a clue about his agenda.  Wait and see how Ramaphosa cunningly dismisses BC and patronises Biko:

While some regard black consciousness as a historical artefact, the ideas that Steve Biko propounded are timeless and universal.  They are no less powerful and no less relevant today.

Biko knew that white superiority complex and black inferiority complex are not an accident of history.  They are functions of power relations anchored on white racism.  Biko also knew that individual racism is not an isolated phenomenon, but an integral element of institutionalised racism.  To view individual racism, as Ramaphosa does, as the remnants of defeated white racism is misleading: “Even today, we observe, in ways both subtle and crude, the residue of some amongst our white compatriots who have a sense of entitlement and a dose of arrogance”.  This is a revelation that there is zilch political will and strategy to combat and eradicate structural racism.

The cap-in-hand approach in appealing to the white beneficiaries of the ill-begotten wealth to share with the black have-nots is reflected in the statement that wealth redistribution “requires a recognition by those who are the beneficiaries of decades of racial privilege that they have both a responsibility and a vested interest in ending privilege and effecting redress”.

Biko vehemently disagrees and lectures Ramaphosa:

We must learn to accept that no group, however benevolent, can ever hand power to the vanquished on a plate. We must accept that the limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. As long as we go to Whitey begging cap in hand for our own emancipation, we are giving him further sanction to continue with his racist and oppressive system. We must realise that our situation is not a mistake on the part of whites but a deliberate act, and that no amount of moral lecturing will persuade the white man to “correct” the situation. The system concedes nothing without demand, for it formulates its very method of operation on the basis that the ignorant will learn to know, the child will grow into an adult and therefore demands will begin to be made. It gears itself to resist demands in whatever way it sees fit. When you refuse to make these demands and choose to come to a round table to beg for your deliverance, you are asking for the contempt of those who have power over you. This is why we must reject the beggar tactics that are being forced on us by those who wish to appease our cruel masters. This is where the SASO message and cry ” Black man, you are on your own! ” becomes relevant. (Black Consciousness and the Quest for a True Humanity, 1971)

Despite all the hollow rhetoric about “land expropriation without compensation”, Ramaphosa had to give assurance to white monopoly capital, Donald Trump and Theresa May that “every citizen needs to respect the rights and property of others, respect the law and be respected by the law”.  In its raw and naked nature, that statement should read as follows: “Every black person needs to respect the rights and property of white people, respect the Roman-Dutch law that legitimises land dispossession and wealth theft by whites, so that this law is not unleashed against misbehaving black people”.

Where the “Biko Lecture” loses patience with pretending and becomes a “Biko Capture” is in Ramaphosa’s false and outrageous claims that: “Bantu Steve Biko led people, not parties.  His revolution was one of the mind, not one of membership.  The alumni of his movement are spread across many formations and are found in many parts of society and different geographies”.

Yet the same Biko formed a plethora of political organisations through which he led the Azanian masses.  Biko was not naïve.  He understood the importance of organisational structures, philosophy, ideology and principles in waging the liberation struggle.  He knew the importance of members and cadres in providing leadership and direction to the revolutionary masses.  I doubt if Ramaphosa did not know this truism.  But he had the constraints of talking positively about the Movement of Biko, which is a direct competitor to his own.  He took a shortcut of stripping Biko of any institutional form.  He conveniently forgot that Biko formed and became the inaugural President of SASO, which was the pioneer organisation of the BCM.  Expedient amnesia came to his rescue to forget that Biko was the Honourary President of the BPC when he died.  That Biko died on a mission to unite the Liberation Movement buttresses in the instrumentality of an organisation as a vehicle for the liberation of black people.  Because Ramaphosa probably condones the institutional erasure of BC and the BCM as “historical artefacts”, he and others that defected from the BCM and betrayed Biko’s legacy must be promoted to a glorified “alumni”.

MANDELA 2004 LECTURE

When he was about to dedicate about half of his “Biko Lecture” to sing praises about Oliver Tambo at the invitation of the SBF, Mandela wondered “how often it is neglected to explicitly recognise and acknowledge the hand of [Tambo] who was the architect, foundation layer and builder of that which we talk about today”.  You could not blame Mandela for preserving his energy and glowing descriptive terms until he had to deliver the “Tambo Lecture” at a “Biko Lecture”, which made more political sense to him than a Biko he never really regarded that highly.

MBEKI 2007 LECTURE

Mbeki was given by the SBF the honour of delivering the “Biko Lecture” that marked the 30th anniversary of the murder of Biko by the white settler regime in police custody.  Though he tried his level best to contain it, Mbeki’s condescending attitude towards Biko had to come out:

Born in 1946, Steve Biko was 16 years old when I left our country to go into exile in 1962.  A year earlier in 1961, when we organised for and launched the African Students Association (ASA), the historical parent with ASUSA of SASO, I did not meet him. However, my political history from my early youth at school and since then, has to some extent overlapped with the political life of a close friend and comrade of Steve Biko, Nyameko Barney Pityana.  Barney and I were students and members of the ANC Youth League at Lovedale institution during the latter years of my studies at this once renowned centre of learning at Alice across the Tyhume River that separate Lovedale from the neighbouring Fort Hare.  I mention this today because the young Barney Pityana served as the vital link between the accumulated national experience and wisdom of the struggle for liberation concentrated in the ANC until it was banned in 1960 and the time in 1969, when he and Steve Biko established SASO, the organised formation of the Black Consciousness Movement nine years after the long-established and very young PAC were banned.   I am very pleased that today, 30 years after the death of comrade Steve Biko, Barney Pityana is also delivering a lecture on Steve Bantu Biko, far to our North at the UNISA Campus in Pretoria/Tshwane.  It must surely be something of note that members of the ANC Youth League of 50 years ago speak on the same day… to pay tribute to a young patriot…”

I wonder if you hear what I hear.  This is supposed to be a “Biko Lecture” about Biko’s legacy and the sterling contributions of his Black Consciousness Movement in the liberation struggle.  Yet we are told about how Mbeki never saw Biko nowhere in the struggle when they formed a “historical parent organisation” of Biko’s SASO.  He rubs it in by telling us that Biko was 16 years “young” when he (Mbeki) skipped the country into exile.  There is some misplaced but justified boasting about how the “Biko Lectures” are delivered by ANC members.  Did you see the innuendo of how the formation of the BCM is made to be intrinsically linked to the ANC through an ANC member in the name of one Barney Pityana?  It is not unlikely that the two ANC members shared notes because Pityana boasts in his “Biko Lecture” about his loyalty to the ANC, and how he was an “ANC underground” operative when he was involved in the formation of Biko’s SASO.

Next I deal with the “Biko Lecture” by the “ANC underground operative”, Pityana.  At the risk of duplication, below I reproduce parts of my critique of that “Lecture”.

PITYANA 2007 LECTURE

Strange as it might sound, the most vicious and lethal attack against Biko and BC come from those we are supposed to regard as the senior members in the BCM.  These are the people the Movement heavily invested in and had over time grown to become huge influential symbols.  They aspire to political ancestry without lifting a finger to protect their own political legacy.  The “unkindest cut” came from Professor Barney Pityana’s dagger in his essay, Reflections on 30 Years since the Death of Steve Biko: a Legacy Revisited, 2007:

Black consciousness never attempted in any systematic sense to formulate a manifesto for a new South Africa: in part because black consciousness, certainly during the time of Steve Biko, never envisaged itself as an alternative liberation force, but also in part because it was justly preoccupied with the middle passage, the strategies necessary to bring about the revolution of the mind that leads to action.  I can assert that in its early formulations black consciousness had no desire to substitute the traditional liberation organisations, neither did it see itself as formulating an alternative ideology…  That explains why someone like me could be a loyal cadre of the movement even though I had strong pedigree in the ANC Youth League.  Indeed, at the time of BC I was regularly in touch with the underground at various levels.  (p8)

Et tu, Professor Pityana?

Was BC just a “middle passage”?  Did the BCM have no “manifesto for a new South Africa”?  Could it be true that it had no “alternative ideology”, and therefore no “desire” to liberate the black toiling masses?  We consider it prudent to briefly awake Biko from the grave and let him answer for himself:

One must immediately dispel the thought that Black Consciousness is merely a methodology or a means towards an end.  What Black Consciousness seeks to do is to produce at the output end of the process real black people who do not regard themselves as appendages to white society. This truth cannot be reversed.  We do not need to apologise for this because it is true that the white systems have produced through the world a number of black people who are not aware that they too are people.  (I Write What I Like, p55, 2006 Reprint of the 2004 Edition)

Biko imposes a stern warning to Pityana and Company, “This truth cannot be reversed”.  He is not done with Pityana:

The interrelationship between the consciousness of the self and the emancipatory programme is of paramount importance.  Blacks no longer seek to reform the system because so doing implies acceptance of the majority points around which the system revolves…  Liberation therefore, is of paramount importance in the concept of Black Consciousness, for we cannot be conscious of ourselves and yet remain in bondage.  We want to attain the envisioned self which is a free self.  (Ibid, p53)

So we now know that BC was never “a means towards an end” or “a middle passage”, but its ultimate goal was to liberate black people on the basis of an “emancipatory programme”.  And Black Solidarity is cardinal in driving the process where the “free self” would be located.  Says Biko:

We are of the view that we should operate as one united whole toward attainment of an egalitarian society for the whole of Azania.  (Ibid, p166)

Nowhere does Biko suggest, as Pityana implies, that the BCM would dissolve and delegate this revolutionary task of bringing about an egalitarian society to the “traditional liberation organisations”.  He talks of a “united whole” that necessarily includes the BCM.  To ensure that there is not the slightest confusion or distortion, he adds, ‘I would like to see groups like ANC, PAC and the Black Consciousness Movement deciding to form one liberation group” (Ibid, p169).  AZAPO was trying to give expression to this value when it approached the other sections of the liberation movement with a view to forming a Patriotic Front in the 1980s and early 1990s.

With delinquent impudence, Pityana claims:

[Biko] had no language of socialism and as such never critiqued to any substantive extent the socialist ideology, save to say that he haboured intellectual suspicions about socialist ideologies and practice. (Ibid, p8)

Such proportions of blasphemy had one Saul violently visited by lightning in Damascus.  We are however prevailed upon to ask where Pityana was in 1975 when the Black People’s Convention (BPC) adopted the blue print called Towards a Free Azania – Projection: Future State (the Mafikeng Manifesto) that outlined the envisaged “new South Africa”.  This was a socialistic document along the lines of Black Communalism.  It reflected the limitations of its time as the BCM was trying to avoid anything that would invite the invocation by the white minority regime of the Suppression of Communism Act.  In later years the Movement demonstrated that it had advanced by officially adopting Scientific Socialism.  This vision was encapsulated in documents like the Azanian Manifesto and the Black Consciousness Movement of Azania (BCMA) Political Programme.  Was this a deviation from BC as Pityana seems to suggest?  Let us once more request Biko to clarify this issue.  He was once asked if the egalitarian society he was speaking about was a socialist one.  He answered in the affirmative:

Yes, I think there is no running away from the fact that in South Africa there is such an ill distribution of wealth that any political freedom which does not touch on the proper distribution of wealth will be meaningless…  In the same way that blacks have never lived in a socialist economic system they’ve got to learn to live in one.  (Ibid, p169)

As if he had Pityana in mind, the late Muntu ka Myeza once cautioned that ‘Renegades are seldom the best advocates of a cause they have deserted’.  We can only thank Pityana for his rare honesty in revealing his unwavering ANC loyalty about which he never bothered to take Biko into confidence.

To raise these things in this manner is to expose the systematic way in which an assortment of dark forces conspires to destroy BC and Biko.  The plan is to emasculate AZAPO and then remove Biko from AZAPO so that he may enjoy no institutional defence.  The next step is to appoint and anoint some dirigible ‘authorities’ on Biko to revise and tone down the BC message.  Pusillanimous BC stalwarts who are prepared to widen the gap between them and AZAPO would be generously rewarded to demonstrate that “AZAPO and personal prosperity do not go together”.  In the end BC and Biko would evaporate into thin air and there would not even be ashes left to show future generations where the BC flames used to burn the collective conscience of black people.

There is therefore no other way to protect and give effect to Biko’s legacy than to build a colossal and formidable AZAPO.

MANUEL 2008 LECTURE

Just Like Ramaphosa, Trevor Manuel is another “alumnus” of the BCM.  Listen carefully to what he says in his 2008 “Biko Lecture” at the invitation of the SBF:

The Black Consciousness Movement of the 1970s raised the consciousness of society after the lull of the 60s, following the bannings and imprisonment of many leaders.  The United Democratic Front of the 1980s built on top of that a culture of broad participation with the community including door-to-door work.  Politics and revolution were talked about in the homes of the oppressed, in our churches, our schools and universities, on our sports fields, on trains, busses and taxies – not just in town halls.

Mind you, this is supposed to be a “Biko Lecture”. Yet contribution of Biko and the BCM is restricted to the “raising of the consciousness of society” and nothing more.  Apparently, that leaves the UDF with a more important task of going beyond consciousness-raising interventions to building on top of that “a culture of broad participation”.  If you are not vigilant, “Alumnus” Manuel may drag you into believing that there was never any “broad participation” in the struggle during what he prefers to call the “BCM of the 1970s”.  How did the June 16 Uprisings come about if there was no “broad participation” until the UDF allegedly agitated it only in the 1980s?

Manuel makes it seem as though “politics and revolution were” not “talked about in the homes of the oppressed, in our churches, our schools and universities, on our sports fields, on trains, busses and taxies” during the “BCM of the 1970s”.  But we know that Biko organised university students through SASO.  We also know that Biko organised high school students through SASM, which was the undisputed political and institutional leader of the June 16 Uprisings.  We have not forgotten that there was the University Christian Movement, which was formed in 1967; and which was instrumental in the ultimate formation of SASO in 1968.  We know that IDAMASA was there to harness the BCM’s Black Theology in the faith-based sector.  Biko narrates how they jumped onto trains to conscientise black people.  In fact, convenient amnesia comes to Manuel’s rescue by forgetting the negative role played by the ANC through his UDF in silencing the Movement of Biko – AZAPO – in the 1980s.

As a matter of fact, the UDF was never meant to be the continuation of the BCM.  While the BCM and Biko successfully kicked the white liberals out of the black political organisations, the UDF returned them to the thinking and driving seat of the black liberation struggle.  The UDF rejected Biko’s preferred name “Azania” for the country in favour of the colonial one “South Africa”.  The Black Pride and the restoration of black human dignity that had taken strong root was reversed by the unfortunate introduction of the method of killing called necklace and the destruction of the black people’s homes with fire.  As for the reintroduction of white people leadership in the black people’s liberation struggle, Biko goes back to the time of the radical ANC Youth League, upon whose foundation the PAC was formed:

… there was emerging in South Africa a group of angry young black men who were beginning to “grasp the notion of (their) peculiar uniqueness” and who were eager to define who they were and what.  These were the elements who were disgruntled with the direction imposed on the African National Congress by the “old guard” within its leadership.  These young men were questioning a number of things, among which was the “go slow” attitude adopted by the leadership, and the ease with which the leadership accepted coalitions with organisations other than those run by blacks.  The ‘People’s Charter’ adopted in Kliptown in 1955 was evidence of this. (White Racism and Black Consciousness, 1971)

THE MOVEMENT OF BIKO

However, it is a fact of history that Biko’s banned organisations reconstituted themselves into AZAPO to frustrate legal constraints imposed by the banning order.  It is also a fact of history that AZAPO kept Biko’s name and his legacy through memorialising and institutionalising Biko through its many programmes and projects for 41 years without fail.  The 1985-6 attempt to physically liquidate AZAPO by a rival political organisation came about because AZAPO had intensified its defence and advancement of the Biko Legacy.

The programmes included organising the Biko Train from Musina to Qonce on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Biko’s murder in police custody.  AZAPO brought the legendary Dr Kwame Turé to address the function at the Victoria Grounds where Biko’s funeral was conducted.  Through its annual Steve Biko Colloquium programme, AZAPO had as its guests local and international heavyweights like Dr Ruel Khoza, Prof David Mosoma, Dr Ibbo Mandaza, Prof Ranwedzi Nengwekhulu, Prof Eskia Mphahlele, Prof Jonathan Jansen, Prof Ali Mazrui, Prof Molefi Kete Asante, Prof Saths Cooper, Prof Kwesi Prah, Rev Basil Moore and many more.   Also, AZAPO has a partnership to host annual Steve Biko Memorial Lectures with the Nelson Mandela University since 2011.  Heavyweight guests included Dr Mosibudi Mangena, Prof Itumeleng Mosala, Peter Jones, Pandelani Nefolovhodwe, Adv Mojanku Gumbi, Prof Mathatha Tsedu and Prof Molefi Kete Asante.  Your attention is drawn to the fact that the long list boasts the presence of a number of the Black Consciousness (BC) Stalwarts and founders of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM).  It may be added that AZAPO faced resources strangulation for its defence of Biko’s legacy, while its members lost limbs and live as well their homes that were set alight.  Notwithstanding those challenges, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Biko’s death, AZAPO commissioned the writing of the book We Write What We Like.

Some commentators have wondered how it came about that young people in the #FeesMustFall movement, who were not born when Biko died, were embracing BC and Biko with unbelievable conviction and vigour.  These commentators do not know how this should happen because to them AZAPO has become weak, and has no parliamentary representation.  There goes electoral determinism.  The absurd conclusion is that, if you have no parliamentary representation you must either be weak or non-existent.  It is precisely the strength and impetus of AZAPO’s political efforts over the decades that are now bearing fruit.  The sacrifices and selflessness of AZAPO members have kept the Biko fires burning.

It is against this background that both the political and biological families need to exploit the cordial relations and pause to reflect on the challenges facing the Biko Legacy.  It is pleasing that there is no competition but cooperation between the two families.  That cordiality found expression when the SBF unconditionally endorsed AZAPO’s proposal for the renaming of Strand Street in Port Elizabeth to Steve Biko Street.  The Sanlam Building at Strand Street in Port Elizabeth was where Biko was tortured from 6-11 September 1977 and suffered brain damage.  AZAPO has also pushed for the renaming of Njoli Square into Steve Biko.  This is the busiest intersection point of social interaction and business in the Port Elizabeth townships.  The Walmer Police Station is proposed to be a heritage site where no other prisoner will be incarcerated in the cell where Biko was kept after he and Peter Jones were arrested at a roadblock in Makhanda on 18 August 1977.  AZAPO has also proposed the Biko Roadblock spot as a heritage site.  The Biko family has endorsed these efforts by AZAPO.

The Biko family appreciates AZAPO’s role in keeping Biko’s name in the hearts and on the lips of the people all over the world.  While the SBF took off from 1998, AZAPO has already been running with the political Biko 21 years earlier.  AZAPO is equally indebted to the Biko family for the great work it is doing in its space.

CONCLUSION

In all fairness, there are some positive things the ruling party leaders who delivered the “Biko Lectures” have tried to bring out.  But the overall tongue-in-cheek and half-hearted approach to the “Biko Lectures” has tended to mystify and dilute the revolutionary content of Biko to the extent of mutilating his legacy.  No wonder that in these alien “Biko Lectures”, BC is either represented as “a means to an end“, or an “historical artefact” that served its limited and time-bound purpose and relevance.

With all its good intentions, the SBF may want to review its approach of overpopulating the “Biko Lectures” with the leaders of the ruling party.  One is not oblivious to the SBF’s strategy to massage the ego of donors and strategically placed leaders of the ruling party when it comes to resources.  The resources are flowing in at the expense of the advancement of the true Biko Legacy.  At the present rate, Biko’s legacy may gradually mutate into something unrecognisable in the same way that the historical Jesus Christ gradually degenerated into being light-skinned with a long nose, blue eyes and shoulder-long straightened hair.

The electoral dispensation has come with its own challenges to the Biko Legacy, which is inextricably linked to the BCM.  The “appropriateness” of being the custodian of BC and Biko is no longer viewed organically.  The “appropriateness” tends to be artificially and expediently linked to the number of parliamentary seats a political party has amassed and the resources it has. This is not only flawed, but it is dangerous to the Biko Legacy.

This dangerous electoral determinism has complicated the situation to an extent that Biko is being abused by some political forces as a vehicle to the riches of parliament for personal gain.

While it remains a fact that Biko is historically, politically, ideologically and intellectually one with AZAPO, but AZAPO should continue to exercise its political maturity of releasing Biko to the nation and the entire world.  Even so, AZAPO will remind the nation and the world that the revolutionary Biko sacrificed his life for the land-dispossessed, colonised, oppressed and exploited black majority in Azania.  So the forces who have an automatic political right to directly benefit from Biko’s Legacy are the struggling masses of the world.  As the custodian of BC and Biko, AZAPO is out to ensure that BC and Biko are not stripped of their revolutionary content and political mission.

Biko was laid to rest on 25 September 1977.  It is for that reason that this piece is given life on 25 September 2018.  Because Biko Lives, we all have a responsibility to Defend Biko from Being Killed Beyond the Grave.


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