12 Lesser Known Facts About The Legendary Steve Biko


When you talk about the people who took part in South Africa’s struggle for independence, one person that stands out from the rest is Steve Biko. Biko was iconic in the painful and bloody struggle for South Africa independence and his works still remains evident not just in South Africa, but also in the entire African continent. Stephen Bantu Biko was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. He was not alone in forging the Black Consciousness Movement  (BCM); he was nevertheless its most prominent leader, who with others guided the movement of student discontent into a political force unprecedented in the history of South Africa. However, many people appear not to fully understand Steve Biko.

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Here are 12 things you didn’t know about Steve Biko

1. Steve Biko’s Town of Birth was King Williams

Though many people think that Steve Biko hails from Soweto where Nelson Mandela was born and brought up, the argument is incorrect. Steve Biko was born in King William’s Town where he also grew up until the time he started fighting colonialists. It is this upbringing that made him understand the ways of the whites and what his black counterparts were missing.

F 327437 003 1/1/98 Steven Biko (Photo By Mark Peters/Getty Images)
1/1/98 Steven Biko (Photo By Mark Peters/Getty Images)

2. Biko Never Got An Opportunity to Know his Dad

When Steve Biko was born, his dad was a clerk while his mother was a maid. However, his father died when Biko was barely four and never knew him well. This made him to grow up in a difficult situation as his mother struggled hard to make ends meet.

3. Steve Biko was Third in his Family

Like many families in South Africa by then, Steve was third and his mother had a lot of difficulties bringing them up. Though he was the youngest, the other children saw him as a great inspiration because of the many problems they were going through.

4. Steve Biko’s Fight for His People Started Early When He Was in school

When Steve was in Lavedale secondary school, his involvement in politics started as he caused several riots against the racist whites. However, he was expelled from the school because of political affiliation.

5. Steve Biko was a Student Leader at St. Francis College in Natal

When Steve Biko won a scholarship to study at St. Francis College in Natal, he found a great opportunity to sharpen his skills on fighting colonialists. The school provided him with the best platform to identify the most effective people to work with in fighting apartheid regime.

6. Steve Biko was the Founder SASO

Because of his involvement and special understanding of South African problems, Biko became the first all Black Organization of South African Students. This organization had the main goal being to increase the awareness to South Africans about the problems that were affecting them. He made the first conclusion that apartheid caused psychological problems to those affected.

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7. Steve Biko Managed to Catch the Attention of Government About Black Oppression

The works of Steve Biko during his time in College attracted a lot of attention from the government and the problem had to be recognized. This does not mean that the government did not understand the problem, but it started realizing the impact of the rising pressure.

8. Banning of SASO Did Not Kill Biko’s Fight for The Blacks

Even after the government banned SASO, Steve Biko continued addressing gatherings in different forums without being authorised. He even had a publication, “frank talk” that attracted a lot of readers. It is during this period that many freedom fighters also emerged to fight for their country.

9. Steve Biko was Arrested Under Terrorism act in 1978

The freedom fight and encouragement of struggle for independence made Biko to be seen as a terrorist. He was arrested in 1978 under terrorism act. His arrest is reported to have made over 40,000 South Africans to lose freedom.

10. The Terrorism Law Allowed Police to Indefinitely Hold Biko

After his arrest, Steve Biko was to be held indefinitely under the terrorism act in place in South Africa. Biko was held for 24 days in Jail. He died in jail because of violence and torture by police.

11. Steve Biko was Denied Medical Attention When in Police Custody

When Steve Biko was arrested, he was tortured so much that he became unconscious and was never allowed to seek medical attention. It was only after he became unconscious and nearing death that police allowed medical help for him.

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12. South African Government Lied about Biko’s death

When Steve Biko died after long torture in the hands of police, the government lied about the cause of his death. It indicated that he was on hunger strike when death occurred. This was meant to remove any blame and even lower the risk of unrest among the blacks in South Africa.

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