The 12th September will always be a grey and sad day. On that day six years ago, a great son of our country died. He died of brain damage – naked and in chains.
Steve Bantu Biko lived for only 30 years. But in that short time, he changed peoples lives. He gave people hope. He gave them pride. And he showed them love.
Biko was no ordinary man. He understood what he wanted. And he believed he knew how to get there.
People came from far and wide to meet him. Old and wise people went to talk to him -and to listen.
Biko was born in a small town in the Eastern Cape called King William’s Town – or “King”, as many people say. He was the third child and second son of Mr and Mrs Mzingazi Biko. His father died when he was only four years old.
Biko went to a few schools. He wrote and passed matric in 1965. Then he went to university. He wanted to become a doctor. But Biko never became a doctor – not because he wasn’t clever enough. But because he was too busy trying to help his people.
Biko began to think of new ideas. He said black people can only win freedom when their minds are free. When they feel strong and proud.
Biko said black people must have rights like everybody else – and they must fight for these right s. Biko called for all black people to come together to fight for their rights.
Biko did not hate white people. He had many white friends. People say Biko hated nobody. They say he didn’t even hate Vorster or Kruger or Treurnicht. He understood them too much to hate them. He only hated their minds and their laws. He hated their apartheid.
The government did not like Biko. They banned him. They arrested him many times -once for 101 days under “Section Six”. But they never found him guilty of any crime.
Biko never gave up. He was scared of nothing. When they banned him and told him to stay in King William’s Town, he didn’t really care. He still went to visit friends in Cape Town, Durban and even Johannesburg.
They say Biko also hit a policeman or two in his time. Like the time this cop Hattingh upset him. Biko got up and smashed him against the wall – and broke his false teeth.
Another time, the same Hattingh walked into Biko’s house with a gun. Biko jumped into action. He gave Hattingh a karate chop and grabbed his gun. He told Hattingh he didn’t want any guns in his house. And then he gave him his gun back.
Biko was a special man. But in many ways, he was like all the rest of us. He mostly wore an old pair of jeans and a shirt without sleeves. He liked a beer and a good party. And most of all, he liked a good joke.
Like the time the judge asked: “Why do you call your people black? Why not brown people? I think your people are more brown than black”. Biko quickly answered : “I think white people are more pink than white”.
On 18th August 1977 the police stopped Biko and his friend Peter Jones at a roadblock. They took them away. Less than a month later, Biko was dead. Our country lost a great man and a great leader. People still ask : “What would Biko think now? What would Biko say now?” We will never know. But one thing’s for sure – history will never forget Steve Bantu Biko.