President Jacob Zuma lays a wreath at the tomb of Black Consciousness leader Steve Bantu Biko on Human Rights Day in King Williams Town. Picture: GCIS
Durban - Steve Biko’s widow, Nontsikelelo Biko, has welcomed a monument built in honour of her late husband, although the family’s attitude is that “Steve was a down- to-earth person who never wanted to be superior to others”.

President Jacob Zuma unveiled Biko’s monument at King William’s Town’s community cemetery on Wednesday before addressing thousands of people on Human Rights Day at the nearby Victoria Grounds, where Biko’s “emotionally charged funeral” was held almost 40 years ago.

The monument at the gravesite was also declared a National Heritage Site.

Nontsikelelo said: “We have always been reluctant to put a monument around him because we knew the type of person he was.

“Putting a monument up, we felt would mean that he is superior to other people buried here. But we decided to let that go, so that young people can also learn about him.”

She said the family was focused on honouring Biko’s legacy.

“Days of crying are over now. We need to focus on continuing with his legacy,” Nontsikelelo said.

Zuma said Biko’s merciless murder by the apartheid state was a gross human rights violation. “We joined Mrs Biko and the family earlier this morning to unveil and hand over the Biko monument to the family.

“The handover marks the launch of the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the death of Mr Biko. In September, the month of his tragic death, we will join the family, Azapo and the Black Consciousness Movement in commemorating his life and contribution. This is the year of deepening unity,” said Zuma.

Former cabinet minister Charles Nqakula, who was a journalist at the time of Biko’s death, said the monument had brought back fond memories of his interactions with Biko.

“There was a project which I have written about; it’s in my book which will be published in June.

“This project is about a report which Oliver Tambo delivered in a conference in 1985, where he was talking about several things the ANC had done.

“Among those was the story related to Biko. That story was an effort by the ANC to have contacts with the Black Consciousness Movement to have one political programme with which to topple the apartheid regime,” said Nqakula.

He said he covered the story of Biko’s death.

“My office, working as a journalist, was here in King William’s Town. Apart from that, we had a lot of contact with the Black Consciousness Movement.

“I had various interactions with Steve Biko and that is why I was part of a delegation that went to view his body at the mortuary,” said Nqakula.

The Mercury