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Family to oppose Biko autopsy auction

A man pays his respects at what used to be the prison cell of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko. File photo: Itumeleng English

A man pays his respects at what used to be the prison cell of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko. File photo: Itumeleng English

Published Dec 3, 2014

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Cape Town - The auctioning of a historic document – the autopsy report of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko – will be challenged via an urgent court interdict on Wednesday, Biko’s family and the Steve Biko Foundation say.

“It has come to the attention of the Biko family and the Steve Biko Foundation that an original autopsy report of the late Steve Biko is scheduled to be sold at auction on December 3 in Johannesburg. The Biko family, together with the Steve Biko Foundation, strongly oppose the sale of this historic document and have filed an urgent interdict to prevent its sale.”

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They said the document was described by the auction house, among others, as: “The Steve Biko Autopsy Report, Pretoria 1977, in original ruled paper covers, pale green pages, containing certificate from the relevant pathologists, certificate in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 and the report of the medico-legal post- mortem.

“This copy is not signed and the photographs referred to in the text are not present. However, the autopsy of Biko’s brain has the cyclostyled signature of Dr NS Proctor on each page, the autopsy consists of 43 pages, a unique document of the Struggle era of great historical importance.”

 

Foundation spokesman Thando Sipuye said they had been notified of the auction by someone who saw it on the website of auction house Westgate Walding. “It has since been removed from the website,” he said.

The Biko family and the foundation said the document was the property of the family and should not be sold for private gain by third parties.

Biko’s son and foundation chief executive Nkosinathi said: “The autopsy report of any deceased person is central to the dignity of the deceased.

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“An action by an unrelated party that amounts to auctioning off national history for private commercial reasons fails the nation at the level of morality and decency, and certainly fails at honouring the memory of those who laid their lives down for that very nation.”

The matter is expected to be heard at the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Johannesburg. Biko’s family and the foundation are to represented by four lawyers, including George Bizos, who served as the family lawyer during the inquest into his death and the TRC hearings.

Cape Times

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