On September 12th South Africans and some other Pan Africanists marked the 40th anniversary of Steve Biko’s death. Steve Biko had been an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa before he died in confinement in 1977 at the age of 31.
As SA marked the anniversary of his death, a publishing house planned to release The Testimony of Steve Biko, the transcript of a four-day trial in 1976, which saw Biko explain and defend the Black Consciousness Movement. There were also plans for a re-release of No Fears Expressed, a collection of Biko’s quotes that still resonate today.
Steve Biko’s legacy is kept alive by a foundation in his name and an annual lecture series that has featured fellow thinkers like Angela Davis. Naturally, as people remembered Steve Biko’s death, a lot was said about him and his ideals, especially, his work as the father of the Black Consciousness Movement. President Jacob Zuma also jumped into the discussion likening himself to Steve Biko.
President Zuma said;
“We are there, some of us, hated as he was hated. At least he was hated and killed. It is better with us, we are hated with words, but it is there. It is what we relive always from where we are. So we are not ashamed to remember him, Steve Biko, the leader of the Black Consciousness Movement.”
The President visited Biko’s cell, where he was kept at the Kgosi Mampuru prison, to lay a wreath. He said Biko was a real African who had the guts and the bravery to speak his mind and die for the ideas of freedom.
The President continued in his comparisons, equating himself to black people everywhere suffering inequality;
“If you talk about inequality, we are the ones who are less equal than others. If you talk about poverty or anything, it is us who need to correct the wrongs of history.
“That is why today when we talk about economic equality, we are in a sense walking in the talks that our leaders like Steve Biko preached that no one will ever come and help us like Jesus did. He comes and cleanses the sins of those on earth,”
True as the words of the President may be, it is easy to argue that he is nothing like Steve Biko. He has had opportunities and the platform to effect changes that Biko never had. In fact, here are 5 ways Steve Biko is very different from President Zuma.
Steve Biko Never Had An Opportunity To Lead His Country
As admired as Biko was he never actually had an opportunity to lead the people of South Africa which may be one of the reasons he is still so loved. The late Nelson Mandela got that chance and so did Jacob Zuma and some would argue that Zuma has misused that opportunity to do anything of merit for Black South Africans.
Steve Biko Was Felled In His Youth
Steve Biko died at the hands of apartheid police on Sept. 12, 1977, he was only 31 years old when he was handcuffed, beaten, and naked for twenty days before his death of a massive brain hemorrhage.
Steve Biko Was An Academic
Steve Biko was a medical student while he became the voice of the Black Conscious Movement, a political ideology centered on black identity and uncompromising pride in that identity. Far from being an academic, President Zuma has practically no formal education.
The ANC Never Adopted His Views
Although Steve Biko’s name is everywhere on the streets, on murals and T-shirts, The ANC never adopted his ideas whereas they have shown that they will go to any lengths to stand behind Jacob Zuma.
He Is A Hero Of The People
Steve Biko to put it simply is a hero of the people. During the student protests for free education, it was Biko’s words that became the rallying call of the grassroots movement. “Had Biko been alive today…,” has become a common refrain in South Africa whereas President Zuma, on the other hand, has lost most of the love that South Africans had for him.