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Johannesburg - Steve Biko’s ideals of a selfless and equitable South African society have been betrayed by a culture of greed, with people stampeding for tenders and government positions in the pursuit of wealth.
So says Strike Thokoane, the deputy president of the Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo).
He was speaking to The Star on Thursday on the 36th anniversary of Biko’s murder by the apartheid regime’s security police in Pretoria.
Thursday’s commemoration, which was jointly organised by Azapo and the Socialist Party of Azania (Sopa), was held at Pretoria’s C-Max Prison - the site of Biko’s death. He was beaten severely in the Eastern Cape after his arrest there and transported to the prison naked.
Biko was a Black Consciousness exponent.
Black Consciousness sought to free black people by teaching them to be proud of who they were and achieve independence on their own. That way, argued Biko, they could finally overthrow their inferiority complex and engage with people of other races as equals.
Thokoane said on Thursday: “We are painfully aware that some of Biko’s closest friends and compatriots have already strayed from the cause for which he died, and have betrayed him.
“All that remains is just the stampeding for tenders. (Everybody) wants to be a councillor.
“This culture of self-enrichment is completely alien (to Biko’s political philosophy). It’s so diabolical and evil,” added Thokoane.
Particularly disappointing, he said, was that even people who closely aligned themselves with Biko had “deserted his just cause” and were now living it up while the ordinary people continued to suffer.
“I am also talking about the generation of Saso (the South African Students’ Organisation), BPO (Black People’s Organisation), the Black Management Forum and the student movement of 1976 (Soweto uprisings) who are no longer espousing Biko’s ideas.
“They are now located in business and other organisations and have deserted the cause.”
Thokoane lamented the ANC’s style of government, saying it was the antithesis of Biko’s ideal of an “egalitarian society where people feel equal before the law”.
He also decried the hopelessness among the youth because of the scarcity of jobs.
“Today our society has lost hope, and that is reflected in the lifestyle of our children. They have given their lives to drugs because there aren’t jobs. Even university students have given up.”
Earlier, Thokoane spoke to almost three dozen Azapo and Sopa members who had visited the tiny prison cell in which Biko is said to have died on September 12, 1977.
In stifling heat, the members knelt down and performed rituals, paying homage to their fallen hero while also invoking his spirit to guide them in their pursuit of a just and equitable society.
They also placed wreaths in the cell in honour of Biko, who they compared to “martyrs” such as Che Guevara, the Pan Africanist Congress’s Mangaliso Sobukwe, the Guinea-Bissauan anti-colonialist leader Amilcar Cabral and murdered South African student activist Onkgopotse Tiro.
Chants of “Izwe lethu, iAfrica! and “Mayibuye, iAfrica!” echoed through the prison as Thokoane and other leaders took turns addressing their members.
“Comrades, it’s 36 years since Steve Biko was killed. We all know that what followed was an effort to kill his philosophy and his spirit.
“We are saying your spirit is prevailing,” Thokoane said.
Sopa president Lybon Mabasa called on blacks to honour Biko’s spirit by unshackling themselves from the yoke of ethnicity and racial inferiority.
* Azapo and Sopa merged in June this year, 15 years after splitting because of disagreements over their political directions.