Lessons from Biko 39 years on

REMEMBERING BIKO: Mathatha Tsedu addresses a full NMMU south campus auditorium Picture: MARK WEST
REMEMBERING BIKO: Mathatha Tsedu addresses a full NMMU south campus auditorium
Picture: MARK WEST

Black Consciousness Movement founder Steve Biko and his generation were serious readers and thinkers and did not shy away from issues or provide lame explanations for difficult subjects.

These were the words of veteran journalist Mathatha Tsedu, who highlighted some of the challenging conundrums facing the country on the 39th anniversary of Biko’s death yesterday.

Delivering the lecture, “Locating Steve Biko as a Revolutionary Thinker in Contemporary South Africa: Biko the spirit lives”, at a packed NMMU south campus auditorium last night, Tsedu said one only had to go back to Biko’s writings on many subjects to realise he was right, and remained so.

“Ayeye Pretoria Girls High Ayeye!” Tsedu said, after quoting one of Biko’s musings.

Biko once said: “It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realise that the only vehicle for change is these people who have lost their personality.

“The first step therefore is to make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth.”

Bringing in the current hot potato of university fees, Tsedu said students should make the difficult and complex calculation of understanding the economics of present day South Africa, what it produces, where the benefits of those products go, how they go there, and what they are abused for.

“In other words, what is the level of abuse of the fiscus?

“[And] if that were to be removed, what would that do to the ability of the state to effect no fees and affordability of other equally important societal demands?” he asked.

“This is important to ensure the general public [understands] that these are not demands from crazies who don’t want school, but revolutionaries committed to ensuring learning for all, not just the well-to-do and rich.”

Meanwhile, the Black Consciousness Movement has called for the arrest of South Africa’s decline into a predatory state and for a return to Biko’s vision of true freedom.

The call came during a visit by some of the movement’s leaders to the cell in which Biko died at the Kgosi Mampuru Prison in 1977, aged 31.

Azanian People’s Organisation president Itumeleng Mosala said that what was happening in South Africa was a betrayal of what Biko fought and died for, and of “all those who fought for freedom”.

“What the black people of this country have experienced is an utter failure of the ruling elite to deliver the true freedom Biko spoke about‚” he said.

“It is clear we are experiencing the beginning stages of a descent into predatory rule and leadership.” – Additional reporting by TMG Digital

Leave a Reply