Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) founder Steve Bantu Biko.
Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) founder Steve Bantu Biko.

The Spirit of Steve Bantu Biko Lives

By Opinion Time of article published Sep 12, 2021

Share this article:

By Dr Vusi Shongwe

We have set out on a quest for true humanity, and somewhere on the distant horizon we can see the glittering prize. Let us march forth with courage and determination drawing strength from our common plight and our brotherhood. In time, we shall be in a position to bestow upon South Africa the greatest possible gift – a more human face – Steve Biko

It is the dictate of history to bring to the fore the kind of leaders who seize the moment, who cohere the wishes and aspirations of the oppressed. Such was Steve Biko, a fitting product of his time; a proud representative of the re-awakening of a people – Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) founder Steve Bantu Biko.

Andrew Silk, the frequent contributor to The Nation Newspaper, poignantly remarked that “theorists of revolution speak of the moment when the servant stops believing the master yet does not have the power to overthrow him. To survive from then on, he must understand the master better than the master understands him.” With the death of Steve Biko, the black people of South Africa lost a leader who did the most to bring them to that moment of insight and understanding.

The 44th annual commemoration of the death of Steve Biko seems a fitting point at which to pause and reflect on his profound influence and personal legacy. He was a perceptive thinker, an articulate speaker, a persuasive spokesman, a wise, resolute and committed leader. Biko was never silent nor ambiguous nor evasive when the truth called him to speak. By so doing, Steve Biko carved himself a niche in the annals of the history of the struggle of liberation in South Africa. He did this as if he was heeding Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worthy of reading, or do things worth the writing”.

Many great leaders like Steve Biko are distinguishable by one thing that they possess. German sociologist Max Weber called it “the firm taming of the soul.” Today, psychologists call it “emotional intelligence” – the capacity to handle one’s emotions and relationship with others. It sounds simple enough as pointed out in the article called “The secret skill of leaders, published in the U.S. News and World Report. However, since the mid-1990s, emotional intelligence has been a hot topic among students of psychology and leadership.

In the wake of the 2001 September 11, the discussion has only grown as Americans wonder what makes a great leader. Is it “brains” – knowledge, logic, and rational thought? Or is it this alternative kind of intelligence based on feelings? Or is it a combination of these that counts most? In his book Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman, a psychologist, as cited in The Secret skill leaders, argues that emotional intelligence is the overlooked yet essential ingredient of leadership.

He further argues that emotional intelligence is the primary factor that distinguishes great leaders from average ones. As a great leader, Steve Biko was, undoubtedly, naturally endowed with emotional intelligence. Presidential scholars like Ford Greenstein cite Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan as shining examples of emotional intelligence.

In the opening lines of his seminal book entitled Good to Great, Jim Collins makes a very interesting observation: “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We do not have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We do not have great government because principally we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just too easy to settle for a good life”. We remain vulnerable because, in Steve Biko, we lost a great life, and not just a good leader, but a great leader.

Steve Biko possessed all the qualities of greatness. He was endowed with deep faith, empathy and a broad vision. The word “great” features prominently when a colossus like Steve Biko is mentioned. But what determines greatness? How do you measure a man’s greatness? Is it situated in his power, the wealth he or she leaves behind, mental prowess, physical abilities, intelligence, magnanimity or greatness? Historian H.G. Wells famously remarked that a “man’s greatness can be measured by what he leaves to grow, and whether he started others to think along fresh lines with a vigour that persisted after him.” Steve Biko is simply irreplaceable!

Readers would forgive me; I normally do not discourse on frivolous questions. Question like, if Steve Biko was alive, such and such would not be happening or will be happening are rhetorical for me. It is only God who knows how a person’s life would pan during the stages of his or her life. In short, nobody knows how Biko’s leadership would have been if he was still alive. There is, however, global consensus that Steve Biko was indeed a great leader.

Who is Steve Bantu Biko?

According to Ramathate R.H. Dolamo in his piece Stephen Bantu Biko: An Agent of change in South Africa’s socio-politico-religious landscape, Steve Biko was born near King William’s Town on 18 December 1946. He died in police custody because of wounds and bruises inflicted upon him on 12 September 1977. As A. Stubbs, in his piece ‘Martyr of hope’, points out, Biko died a martyr because he fought apartheid with single-minded integrity. Dolamo points out that Biko was the 21st person to die in the hands of the police as the political detainee since the founding of Black Conscious Movement.

His father, Mzingaye, passed away when he was still 4 years old and his mother, Duma Mamcete who was a domestic worker, had to raise Steve and his siblings all by herself. The family was God-fearing and denomination-wise they were Anglicans. Nyameko Pityana, as cited by Dolamo, points out that ‘Biko built his political system on spiritual foundation … as the spiritual is…concrete, holistic, and brings the fullness of humanity to bear on the material and objective world’.

Steve Biko was esteemed as a man of compelling personality and of great sagacity. In a newspaper article ran by the New York Amsterdam News titled A Nation remembers the Steve Biko Legacy, Nelson Mandela called Steve Biko “the spark that lit a veld fire across South Africa ,”adding that the race-based Nationalist government “had to kill him to prolong the life of apartheid.”

The paper also reported that in an Anthology of his work in 2008 Marring Marable and Peniel Joseph wrote that Steve Biko’s death “created a vivid symbol of Black resistance’ to apartheid that “continued to inspire new Black activists” over a decade after the transition to majority rule. Not to be left out, Johann de Wet, a professor of communication studies, described Steve Biko as “one of South Africa’s most gifted political strategists and communicators. As cited by the newspaper, at one of the memorial events, former President Jacob Zuma recalled that Steve Biko fought white supremacy and was equally disturbed by what he saw as an inferiority complex amongst Black people.

He further pointed out that Steve Biko advocated Black pride and Black self-reliance, believing that Black people should be their own liberators and lead organizations fighting for freedom. Biko practiced what he preached with regards to self-reliance and led the establishment of several community projects, which were aimed at improving the lives of the people – hence the famous slogan – Black Man You Are On Your Own. In an editorial citing Biko’s writings, I write what I Like’ and “Black Souls in White Skins,’ Professor Tinyiko Maluleke said with reference to Steve Biko, ”they may have killed the man, but his ideals live on.”

Professor Pal Ahluwalia and Abebe Zegeye of the University of Adelaide and South Africa, contend that although Biko’s ideas have not received the same attention as Frantz Fanon’s, the men shared a highly similar pedigree in their interests in the philosophical psychology of consciousness, their desire for the decolonizing of the mind and the liberation of Africa and in the politics of nationalism and socialism for the wretched of the Earth.

Though meant for the demise of Sammy Davis Junior, the great American entertainer, George Burns’s quotation equally applies to Steve Biko when he says, “a phenomenon like him comes along once in a lifetime.” Disregarding the possibility of death, Steve Biko, who struggled heroically against oppression and apartheid, might have been inspired by Martin Luther King, who during the struggle for civil rights in America remarked thus: “some of us will have to get scarred up, but well shall overcome. Before victory is won, some will be misunderstood. Before victory is won, more will have to go to jail. Before justice is victorious, some of us may even face physical death”

Steve Biko, the hero, was passionately committed to the plight of the downtrodden and often defended them against the injustices of the apartheid government under toxic conditions. True, as Commander Randy Bowdish of the U.S. Navy aptly puts it in his piece “Honouring Heroes, Remembering Victims, ‘heroes act out of courage and willingly facing danger, fear and great difficulty to accomplish great feats and this usually involves helping others at risk to themselves.

In his 1993 article Beyond Justifications: Seeking Motivations to Sustain Public Defenders, Professor Ogletree discusses two great principles that have directed his personal, professional, and academic life: "empathy" and "heroism." For Ogletree, heroism is "the desire to take on 'the system' and prevail, even in the face of overwhelming odds." Empathy is "an identification with another person in distress." It can thus be asserted emphatically that the virtuous qualities explicated by both Bowdish and Ogletree to all intents and purposes epitomize the live of Steve Biko.

Steve Biko’s pertinacity to fight for justice resonated well with Martin Luther King, who, as cited by MS Cummings and L.A. Niles, in their piece: King as Persuader: facing the Ultimate Sacrifice, averred that to take a “stand for justice…will require willingness to suffer and sacrifice”: Thus,

Sometimes it might mean going to jail. If such is the case, you must honourably grace the jail with your presence. It might even mean physical death. But if physical death is the price that some must pay to free their children from a permanent lie of psychological death, then nothing could be more Christian.

As Martin Luther famously put it: "We've got some difficult days ahead, but it really doesn't matter to me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like a long life. Longevity has its place. "But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's work. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. "So, I'm happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. Sadly, like Martin Luther King, Steve Biko never lived to witness the Promised Land.

Steve Biko’s The Black Consciousness Movement

In his piece, Emancipatory politics between identity and disidentification: Ranciere and the Black Consciousness movement, Matthias Pauwels points out that among many contemporary European political thinkers especially those with “radical” leanings, identity-driven forms of politics are often regarded as inimical to emancipatory politics. French philosopher Jacques Ranciere, a key figure within post- Marxist and post- structuralists philosophy, is no exception in this regard.

Throughout his work, argues Pauwels, Ranciere has been rather dismissive of identity-based forms of socio-political struggle. Social movements or political projects based on identity markers such as race origin, birth, ancestry, culture, ethnicity or ethos are commonly disqualified from being political which, in Ranciere’s specific sense, means emancipatory. This is, argues Pauwels, the most explicit in Ranciere’s focused texts on politics of the 1990s.

According to Pauwels, political mobilisation centred on identity or, rather, “identification” as an activity and process, functions here as a main counterpoint in the articulation of radical politics. Think for instance, explains Pauwels, of statements from Ranciere’s “Ten Theses on Politics” to the effect that “politics exists as long as the people are not identified with a race or a population” and that the people can [not [ be identified […] with the race of those who recognize each other as having the same beginning or birth.”

Commenting about Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement and South Africa’s black population, Andile M-Afrika, as cited by Pauwels, posits that “being black was propelled by the commonness between and among black groups as well as the universality of the black experience. The overbearing need to define oneself, and not be defined by another, was the most pervasive spirit.” According to Steve Biko, there were three dimensions to the work of the Black Consciousness Movement. These were defined as community clinic, developing home industries for employment creation and the setting up of an education fund and a creche.

Steve Biko’s Black consciousness Movement, together with the unique contribution of Robert Sobukwe and Anton Lembede, were intended to articulate and propagate a locally sensitive psychological perspective aimed at enabling awareness and inspiring the oppressed majority to courageously and confidently confront the Apartheid government of South Africa. Again, coupled with Robert Sobukwe’s direct critique of white supremacy, Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement in line with Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, served as an important mechanism of public education for the mental reorientation of the oppressed Black majority, investing them with a vision. After all, it was Steve Biko who warned that: “the most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

According to Pal Ahluwalia and Abebe Zegeye in their piece, Frantz Fanon and Steve Biko: Towards Liberation, Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness are credited with helping black people in South Africa free themselves of a psychological inferiority complex which had for centuries hampered them in their political thinking and action, especially in their struggle against white domination. Biko, Ahluwalia and Abebe inform us, one of the most important black leaders in the period before the first democratic elections in 1994, was regarded as the ‘father’ of the Black Consciousness Movement.

In an interview, as related by Ahluwalia and Zegeye, Biko explained that when he entered university in Durban in 1966, in his own analysis and that of his friends, there was an anomalous situation. The situation was that white people were at the same time participants in the oppression of black people and the main participants in opposition to that oppression. This, argue Abebe and Zegeye, implies that black people were not contributing to shifts in political opinion. The areas were completely controlled by white people and was eventually called the ‘totality’ of white power at the time.

According to Abebe and Zegeye, Biko redefined organizational politics in South Africa by emphasizing the need for cohesive group power politics centred in the ideology of black consciousness. Blacks had to shed their inferiority complex, redefine South Africa’s political landscape and begin to fashion a revolutionary self-conception not tied to white leadership and ideological positions. Biko, as cited by Abebe and Zegeye, argued that whites could not be both oppressors and leaders in the opposition to white rule; blacks thus had to stop seeing an invincible rationality in Western civilisation as presented in South Africa. This was the first step to independence.

Abebe and Zegeye further argue that as the world increasingly becomes inter-connected with a heightened sense of globalisation, the processes of decolonisation are no longer restricted to the geographical entities, the colonies. Rather, they aver, they are integral to the imagination. These imaginary constraints which were constructed by colonialism and the apartheid state in order to police and maintain a system of oppressive rule are being challenged and the tyranny of structures dismantled.

Abebe and Zegeye further believe that the task for South Africa lies in constructing these colonial and apartheid structures and recognizing that there is no possibility of returning to a romantic essentialised pre-colonial or pre-apartheid past. Rather, they argue, there is an urgent need to confront the present in order to face the future, and they believe that this can only be accomplished by dealing with apartheid and recognizing the ensuing cultural hybridity emanating at the time and which continues to emerge.

As cited by Abebe and Zegeye in their piece, Frantz Fanon and Steve Biko: Towards the liberation, Chinweizu et al note…on the one hand, that our culture has to destroy all encrustations of colonial mentality, and on the other hand, has to map out new foundations for an African modernity. These cultural tasks demand a deliberate and calculated process of syncretism: one which, above all, emphasizes valuable continuities with our pre-colonial culture and welcomes vitalizing contributions from other cultures and also exercises inventive genius in making a healthy and distinguished synthesis from them all. Thus, argue Abebe and Zegeye, the work of Fanon and Biko must be recounted, keeping in mind Aime Cesaire’s notion that there is no race which has a monopoly on beauty and morality.

Steve Biko, the African Bonhoeffer, also believed that decisions should be taken by leadership as a collective and, as Themba Sono, cited by Dolamo, points out, his leadership qualities were such that he never reviled his foes and opponents, only their principles. He refused to descend to the level of vilifying his opponents or foes on a personal level. According to Dolamo, Biko cultivated a culture of discursive thinking for he honestly believed in arriving at decisions that had been thoroughly debated.

In fact, according to Nyameko Pityana, as cited by Dolamo, many of the essays in Biko’s I Write What I Like Book were so much a product of extensive and intensive discussions among them that a correct title should have been We Write What We Like. Dolamo points out that effort was taken to avoid a leadership cult even when Steve Biko was accepted as the visionary and luminary leader of Black Consciousness and BT.

In fact, Dolamo points out, consensus politics defined management of the BC organizations. In his piece, Reflections on the origins of Black consciousness in South Africa, Themba Sono points out that ‘there grew into being a particular style of leadership which recognized and enormous advantage of widespread consultation to win over a proposal but the creation of an atmosphere where individual opinions were considered and taken seriously.

The Juxtaposition of Frantz Fanon and Steve Biko

The struggle journey of Steve Biko is often juxtaposed with that of Frantz Fanon. According to Pal Ahluwalia and Abebe Zegeye in their piece, Frantz Fanon and Steve Biko: Towards Liberation, both Fanon and Biko were activist student leaders. Fanon became a psychiatrist and Biko studied medicine although he did not finish his studies. They became part of the larger struggle for freedom. They shared a highly similar pedigree in their interests in the philosophical psychology of consciousness, their desire for a decolonizing of the mind, the liberation of Africa and in the politics of nationalism and socialism for the ‘wretched of the earth’.

They were both adept at expressing the deep-seated malaise of living in the bondage of colonialism. Both were university -trained intellectuals themselves and were in engagement with contemporary thinking. Although, Ahluwalia and Zegeye point out, there has been a resurgence of Fanon studies, and he has become linked inextricably with post-colonial theory, Biko has not received the same attention either internationally or in South Africa. Our recognition of this historiographical omission when correctly construed, should steer us towards rescuing Steve Biko from the threat of global anonymity and thus restore him to his deserved position in public esteem.

Steve Biko: The Martyr

Anna L. Peterson and Brandt G. Peterson in their piece Martyrdom, Sacrifice, and Political Memory in El Salvador recounts a story of Oscar Romero, an Archbishop of San Salvador, who a month before his death remarked thus in an interview: “If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvador people…May my blood be the seed of freedom and the signal hope will soon be a reality.”

Romero was killed on the orders of a Salvadoran military colonel who organised both clandestine death squads and the far-rights political party. During the civil war that spanned 12 years in that country, the Archbishop is said to have often denounced social injustices from the pulpit. His incisive condemnation of repression by the state security forces made him a target of the military’s death squad.

Similarly, Steve Biko South Africa’s foremost, courageous and compelling champion of black consciousness, armoured with the courage of a righteous cause which was his greatest weapon, uncompromisingly denounced the injustices of the apartheid government. His act in this regard unceremoniously culminated in him being targeted and eventually killed by South Africa’s police special branch squad. It is against this backdrop, therefore, that it cannot be gainsaid that the blood of this freedom fighter laid the seed that led to South Africans to achieve their freedom marked by the first inclusive democratic elections in 1994.

According to Amira Mittermaier, in his piece Death and Martyrdom in the Arab Uprising: An introduction, Martyrdom is construed as giving one’s life for a cause, a better state of affairs, and simultaneously it can be about one’s faith in the afterlife. As such, it inherently seems to be about the future. And yet, martyrdom is a label assigned retroactively. According to Christoph de Spiegeleer, in his piece, ‘The blood of martyrs is the seed of progress’: The role of martyrdom in socialist death culture in Belgium and the Netherlands, 1880-1940, ‘martyrs overcome death through their achievements. They remain alive in the heart of the proletariat and the future struggle. Martyrs can be used to transcend death. People need a sense of place in a cosmic scheme of things, and the commemoration of martyrs from a distant or recent past creates a sense of continuity with past and future generations. Martyrdom always implies a narrative that invokes notions of the ‘right ordering of the cosmos’, ‘an imagined system of meaning’.

Manifestations that did have a clear socialist undertone were those for general suffrage in Belgium. The socialist party had fought since its foundation for general suffrage in Belgium and big manifestations and strikes paralysed the country. In April 1902, six workers were shot during a manifestation in the Flemish city of Leuven. Emotional and combative articles dominated the front pages of Vooruit: ‘the blood of martyrs is the seed of progress’ or ‘when ten fall hundreds will rise’. Geffrey B. Kelly in his piece: The life and death of a modern martyr, recounts the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German, Lutheran pastor and theologian executed by the Gestapo for his past in a series of assassination plots against Adolf Hitler and quickly achieved martyr’s status. In 1942, he sent a Christmas gift to his family and his friends who were involved in a plot to kill Hitler. This gift was an essay titled "After Ten Years."

In it, Bonhoeffer reminded his co-conspirators of the ideals for which they were willing to give their lives. To this effect he remarked: "We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled--in short, from the perspective of those who suffer." Arguably, Bonhoeffer’s incisive comment resonates with the ideals of Steve Biko who championed the cause of those who suffered under apartheid in very trying circumstances.

The neglection of Steve Biko’s Teachings

In his article Biko, Shakespeare and Black Consciousness, Geoffrey Haresnape, states that, Steve Biko, the influential Black Consciousness writer and an iconic martyr for his death at the hands of apartheid authorities, has tended to be neglected and, I would also argue, almost completely forgotten. It is my contention that the little attention Steve Biko has received is probably attributed to South Africans’ apathy towards their history. The problem with the Irish, once observed Oscar Wilde, is that they remember too much history. The problem with the English, he went on, is that they forget too much. I want to argue that the problem with South Africans is that they just don’t care.

In examining the historical consciousness of South Africa, it becomes clear that both the concepts ‘forgetting to remember’ and ‘Remembering to forget’ are fast becoming the pervasive elements in our country’s psyche, and proving to be an insidious symptom of South Africa’s historical amnesia. David Lowenthal’s perspicacious article “The Past of the Future” probably best captures the apathy of South Africans towards their history when it points out that in recent years there has been a retreat from engagement with many aspects of the past.

He suggests that this reveals an unwillingness to contend with the future. He concludes by saying that the past remains integral to us, both individually and collectively, assimilated in ourselves, and resurrected into an ever-changing present. Lowenthal points out that the phenomena of historical remembering and forgetting are not innocent acts of (mis)fortune but strategic undertakings that streamline the past in ways that are coherent to the present and profitable for the future. He further argues that memory is a ‘great organizer of consciousness’, selectively eliminating undesirable aspects from the past and highlights favoured events which render history ‘tidy and suitable’.

Equally perceptive, is T.C. Chang and Shirlena Huang’s article ‘Recreating place, replacing memory: Creative destruction at the Singapore River in which they point out how societies, communities and nations perceive their past and that their perception in this regard often reveals the ways in which they manage the present and welcome the future.

In his celebrated piece, The Word in the World: Then and Now, Frances J. Moloney observes that today’s western society is marked by high mobility, a fracturing of previously sacred barriers and a seeming relativisation of all that was once regarded as permanent and sacred. Phyllis A. Tickle reports in her important book, God-Talk in America: “when my contemporaries and I closed the doors of our mothers’ houses behind us, we locked ourselves out of five hundred years of human habits and entered into disjuncture.” Indeed, all the treasured values bequeathed to us by Steve Biko and his comrades have, sadly, dissipated into the dustbin of historical amnesia.

The Relevance of Steve Biko Today

Black consciousness taught people about a positive sense of self and then tried to link that positive sense of self to an emancipation programme. In remembering the teachings of Steve Biko, we need programmes that will rekindle the consciousness of the citizenry in the country. We need a reawakening of the national consciousness. In his piece, “Freeing African Minds, Levi Kabwato is spot on when he opines that Steve Biko’s ideas need to be reignited, not forgotten today, when interventions aimed at addressing African problems are more likely to be decided in Brussels, London or Washington than on the African continent.

The restoration of our national pride as espoused by Steve Biko is the way to go in the promotion and preservation of our treasured heritage which is in danger of becoming extinct and this will cause disjuncture in the minds of the future generation, as exemplified by the Ndebele regalia incident, wherein a black manager disparagingly chastised and belittled a fellow black South African for proudly wearing his Ndebele African attire.

In his graduation speech on the 15th of May 1970, Sir Seretse Khama said, “we were taught, sometimes in a very positive way to despise ourselves and our ways of life. We were made to believe that we had no past to speak of, no history to boast of. The past, so far as were concerned, was just as blank and nothing more. Only the present mattered and we had very little control over it. It seemed we were in for a definite period of foreign tutelage, without any hope of our ever again becoming our own masters. The end result of all this was that our self-pride and our self-confidence were badly undermined.

It should now be our intention to try to retrieve what we can of our past. We should write our own history books to prove that we did have a past, and that it was a past that was just as worth writing and learning about as any other. We must do this for the simple reason that a nation without a past is a lost nation, and a people without a past is a people without a soul.” Sir Seretse Khama’s words are still relevant today as they were when they were first uttered.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is worth pointing out that Nelson Mandela’s words to the effect that “while Steve Biko espoused, inspired, and promoted black pride, he never made blackness a fetish” are apposite. At the end of the day, Steve Biko himself pointed out, accepting one’s blackness is a critical starting point and is an important foundation for engaging in the struggle. So, today, ‘it must be a foundation for reconstruction and development for a common human effort to end war, poverty, ignorance and disease’. Equally perspicacious, as stated by Nelson Mandela in a tribute he penned that opens Xolela Mangcu’s book on Steve Biko is that “Steve Biko lives on in the galaxy of brave and courageous leaders who helped shape the democratic South Africa. May we never cease to celebrate his life.”

Thus, in commemorating, and remembering how Steve Biko met his death, one is reminded of the words spoken by Rosa Luxembourg, the Marxist theorist, uttered the day before she was murdered in which she remarked thus: “Your order is built on sand. The revolution will raise its heart again, proclaiming to the sound of trumpets, I was. I am. I shall be.”

Equally true, we owe Steve Biko and many other unknown freedom fighters a debt we can never pay them- and above all, we owe them their deserved remembrance. In ensuring that Steve Biko is always remembered, a French-Canadian Architect, Eugene-Etienne Tache’s motto, which he devised for Quebec, a province in Canada, is worth quoting. The motto ‘Je Me Souviens’, translated literally into English means “I remember.”

It may be paraphrased as conveying the meaning “we do not forget, and will never forget, our ancient lineage, traditions and memories of all the past.” It, therefore, behoves all South Africans not to forget and never to forget who Steve Biko was. Samora Machel’s eulogy on Moses Mabhida, another struggle stalwart, is also applicable to Steve Biko when he says, …Men who die fighting, who refuse to surrender, who serve the people and the ideals to the last breath, are victors. So, it was with Steve Biko – he was a victorious combatant”.

Dr Vusi Shongwe is the former Head of the Royal Household and Chief Director of Heritage in the KwaZulu-Natal Office of the Premier. He is currently the Chief Director of the Heritage Resource Services in the KZN Department of Arts and Culture.

NB. The piece is dedicated in the memory of Professor Charles Mandlenkosi Dlamini, who was the former Vice Chancellor of University of Zululand and Head of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education

Share this article: