‘SA leaders would have disappointed’ Biko
Leaders who are looking after their own interests instead of developing communities would have disappointed Bantu Stephen Biko, says his widow Ntsiki Biko.
Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of her late husband’s death. He died on September 12 1977 in police detention in Pretoria, at the age of 30 and at the peak of his political activism during the height of apartheid South Africa’s brutal regime.
“Forty years is a long time,” says Ntsiki.
“People are always asking me how I feel. How do I cope? I always say, we can’t be weeping forever. The only way we can show our love for him is to continue with the work that he was doing. This is exactly what the Steve Biko Centre and Steve Biko Foundation are doing.”
Ntsiki (71) spoke to City Press on the sidelines of the launch of former rugby player Thando Manana’s autobiography, titled Being a Black Springbok: The Thando Manana Story. The event took place at the Steve Biko Centre in Ginsberg in the Eastern Cape this week.
Ntsiki said more still needed to be done to reflect the ideals and sacrifices of the late Black Consciousness Movement leader.
Each anniversary of Biko’s death still evokes emotions for her. She has kept the home fires burning and raised their two sons, Nkosinathi and Samora, on her own.
“If he was still alive, Steve would be disappointed with most of the things that are happening in the country ... the rampant corruption that is there. He believed in assisting communities,” said Ntsiki.
“But now leaders are looking out for themselves. So I am sure he would have been very disappointed in the current state of affairs of the country.”
She said the country’s citizens, especially the youth, had the power to make a difference in people’s lives – just like Biko did from a young age.
“If people like Steve could make a change in the lives of others, there is no reason young people cannot make a change now,” she said.
Ntsiki said the family started the Steve Biko Foundation to preserve his legacy, adding that the Steve Biko Centre in Ginsberg township, where Biko grew up, was one of the greatest legacy projects established in memory of “the father of black consciousness”.
Manana, who is also a rugby commentator, launched his book at the centre as part of its programme of events commemorating 40 years since Biko’s death.
“One of the biggest tragedies of the past 100 years was the loss of Stephen Bantu Biko,” he said.
“His work was not complete. I get so emotional when I read his book, I Write What I Like. People of today give false messages, unlike him.”
Bokang Pooe, senior programmes manager at the Steve Biko Centre, said about 5 000 tourists visited the centre a year. Most were students from across South Africa and abroad.
The centre was officially opened on November 30 2012 as an anchor for the Biko Heritage Trail. It has two wings – there is the commercial space, which includes a shop where Biko memorabilia such as T-shirts and books are sold, along with a restaurant and a lounge. Then there is a community development wing, which houses a library, museum, community media centre, production space and a permanent exhibition of Biko’s legacy.
Also included is an arts and culture development programme to train young people in the performing arts.
The centre has organised a prayer service to take place at the Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance, where the late icon is buried, on Tuesday. This will be followed by a dialogue at the centre, where young people will have a chance to speak of Biko as their Inspiration Beyond a Lifetime, which is the theme for this year’s celebrations.
“It will be a day that we remember him the way he was: as a character who just loved people, loved discourse and loved to engage not just for the sake of engaging, but for a meaningful purpose,” said Pooe.
Two streets from the centre is the Biko Monument, at No 698, Leightonville. Originally the home of Biko’s mother Alice, it was declared a national monument on the 20th anniversary of Biko’s death and was opened by former president Nelson Mandela in September 1997.
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