President Jacob Zuma has described Steve Biko as a hero who was not afraid to speak his mind and fight the good fight for freedom.
“Biko is one hero we should never forget. He was a thinker. He was not afraid to speak his mind. Biko stood for the poor. We should remember his teachings, his day and night preparing for the struggle,” said President Zuma on Tuesday, calling on South Africans to pick up where Biko left off.
Speaking at Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre in Tshwane after laying wreaths at the cell where Steve Biko died, President Zuma described Biko as someone who was prepared to die for freedom.
The wreath-laying ceremony forms part of the commemorations of the 40th anniversary of the passing of the Black Consciousness Movement leader.
Biko died in custody on 12 September 1977 as a result of police brutality.
Government dedicated this year’s National Human Rights Day commemoration on 21 March to Steve Biko, acknowledging his contribution to the struggle for liberation and human rights for all in the country.
The national commemoration was held in King William’s Town and President Zuma unveiled the Biko grave site and memorial.
Biko died in a police cell at the then Pretoria Central Prison (now Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre) following his arrest in August 1977. He had been savagely beaten by the apartheid security police while in police detention in Port Elizabeth and sustained serious injuries, including brain damage.
Biko was transported to Pretoria from Port Elizabeth, despite being seriously ill from the beatings. His death caused outrage locally and abroad.
On Monday, President Zuma said Biko’s leadership and ideals inspired not only South African liberation struggle activists, but also many leaders and activists across the continent and the world, who pursued an anti-racist, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist agenda.
“Steve Biko fought white supremacy and was equally disturbed by what he saw as an inferiority complex amongst black people. He emphasised the need for psychological liberation for black people to accompany physical liberation to undo the damage caused by apartheid.
“He advocated black pride and black self-reliance, believing that black people should be their own liberators and lead organisations fighting for freedom. He 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.
“His ideals of self-reliance are more relevant than ever now as we push a radical socio-economic transformation agenda and the de-racialisation of the ownership, control and management of the economy,” Pesident Zuma said.
The Presidency said government will continue to honour the memory and legacy of Biko.
Government, through the Department of Arts and Culture, provided R130 million to the Steve Biko Foundation to develop the Steve Biko Centre, a national legacy project based in Ginsberg in the Eastern Cape.
The centre was officially launched in November 2012 and focuses on translating global interest in the legacy of Biko into a developmental resource for the region.