Cape Town - This city road has carved out a place in Cape Town’s Struggle history, connecting one part of the sprawling Gugulethu township to the other.
Many Struggle scenes played themselves out along Gugulethu’s NY1. Residents remember marching in the street, squaring up against police and being sprayed with tear gas.
Others fondly recall how it also came to be known as “Ladies Street”, a road where women went dressed in their best clothing, knowing that everyone would see them as they walked along NY1.
On Monday, on Heritage Day, this road was renamed after one of the Struggle’s greatest icons, Steve Biko. During the apartheid era, Biko used this street as a meeting place.
City mayor Patricia de Lille and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille were joined by Biko’s family in Gugulethu for the official renaming on Tuesday. De Lille praised Biko, as one of the “great leaders” in the “revolution of the mind”.
“Like many great prophets telling great truths, Steve Biko was murdered for his ideas. He was murdered for the power of this revolution.” Zille labelled his death apartheid’s “worst crime” against a single person.
“Apartheid died, but Steve Biko has lived on. It’s so appropriate to name this road after a mind-liberating philosopher like Biko.”
And while Biko was remembered for his writing and his political beliefs around black consciousness, his sister Bandi had the crowd laughing as she remembered her older brother’s antics.
Biko and his siblings were raised just outside King William’s Town.
“He told me I was not my mother’s child, my mother was in an aeroplane. He said that when they received me, they had put a mattress outside to collect me. I remember every time an aeroplane flew past, I would say: “Mommy please don’t pick me up, I really love living with this family,” Biko laughed.
But the young Steve Biko was thoughtful and the two of them often visited the elders in the area.
Biko spoke on the history of Gugulethu and how her brother had been politically active there. She hoped the name change would be a reminder for young people.
Lungiswa James, the city’s mayoral committee member for health and a Gugulethu resident, credited Biko for being instrumental in involving the province in the Struggle, in making many young people aware of the injustices of apartheid.
The road certainly had historical significance, but James added it was also socially the place in which to be seen in Gugulethu.