’Government has not done enough to remember Steve Biko’
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Johannesburg - The government had not done enough to elevate the legacy of Steve Biko, 1976 Soweto uprising leader Seth Mazibuko said on Sunday.
September 12 marks the 44th anniversary of the death of Steve Biko,who is remembered for his legacy of black consciousness.
Mazibuko, who was a young activist in the 1976 June 16 uprising, said Biko's legacy had not been treated with the importance that it deserved.
Mazibuko said he believed the government had not done enough to commemorate Biko, as other Struggle heroes, particularly from the ANC, had been remembered.
“They make a point of trying to downplay Biko's legacy. It is unfortunate that the government of the day does not give space to that legacy, it actually undermines that legacy,” Mazibuko said.
“Most of those historical events, ideologies, that do not sit in easily with our current government, they downplay. They have done that with Robert Sobukwe.
“It is a selective memory of history. The apartheid government did the same thing. Our current government seems to be saying we will close some parts of history away,” he said.
Mazibuko, however, also acknowledged that young people were more conscious of the ideas Biko stood for. He said this was often reflected in movements such as #FeesMustFall.
“Today we speak with pride about being black. It is with Biko's legacy that we can say black people are the rightful owners of this land. Steve Biko's legacy speaks through #FeesMustFall and decolonising education,” he said.
Saths Cooper, who has a PhD in psychology and who was a close associate of Biko, had similar sentiments about Biko’s legacy.
“Outside of Mandela, Steve Biko is a man remembered in the country. And young people, in particular, look to Biko and his ideas because they are alive and uncompromising in laying out black achievement,” he said.
Cooper said although Biko's legacy is being remembered, there was a problem with how blackness was often framed in society.
“Black is almost invisible, except when there is a protest or horrible statistics. That tells you of the mind change that needs to happen to restore the mindset of credibility that this country enjoyed from the mid to late nineties – which is being undone now because of corruption,” he said
Cooper said there was a need for a broader discussion and acknowledgement of race being the outlier in the country.
He said there was no chapter nine institution in the country to deal with the legacy of race. He pointed to the July unrest that swept through KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng as an example of the devastating impact of race relations in the country.
"While Biko may not officially be celebrated, people are mindful of the tremendous contribution he made.
“His legacy is still alive. The difficulty is that there is no acknowledgement of the fact that we still have a massive disadvantage to confront, where race is still a dominant factor in our society,” Cooper said.