Biko clinic in dire need of renovation

As South Africa this week commemorated the 40th anniversary of Steve Biko’s death in police detention, a clinic he established in the Eastern Cape looked shabby and in bad repair.

The Black Consciousness Movement leader lived in Ginsberg, King William’s Town, where the state-of-the-art Steve Biko Centre was built in his memory.

He was arrested in August 1977 and tortured by apartheid security police. He died on September 12 that year, after a vicious beating.

He established the Zanempilo Community Health Centre in Zinyoka village, near Bhisho. It opened in January 1975 and still has creaky furniture and a dangerously old electrical system.

The main building, which has consulting rooms and offices, looks decent and the floors are clean. The section that used to serve as the nurses’ home is, however, in tatters.

The paint on the walls inside and outside is peeling off. Old water tanks lie abandoned outside. In one of its rooms, there is dirt on the floor. The other rooms were locked.

A resident who lives close to the clinic said electricity supply to the facility was unreliable because the system was old. He also said that bricks had been put on the roof to stop it from being blown off.

The clinic forms part of Biko’s heritage trail and was established as part of his black community self-development programmes. The facility included a nursery and a church.

“The clinic used to be in good condition, but now looks run down. Many things that were there before are now ruined. This is a historic place, it should be exemplary,” said another local.

The church also looks like it could do with a revamp. Small children run around and play between large bricks that lie between the clinic and the church building.

The provincial health department is fixing some of the problems at the facility, which falls under its care.


Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the clinic serviced about 800 people a month in a community of 3 500.

Kupelo said officials visited the clinic this week and found it was clean and in good shape.

Minor work was needed, such as plumbing, repairing the entrance gate and painting, he said.

The department’s contractor was already doing repairs.

Kupelo disputed claims that there were electrical problems or that the roof needed fixing.

He said the nurses’ building was not being used because they were all staying in other centres, including in King William’s Town.

However, he acknowledged that the nurses’ building was not in good condition.

There were plans to use the rooms for adolescent youth services in the near future.