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South Africa has a rather long and interesting history. Its history since from its contact with the Europeans till the early 1990s seems to be clouded with suffering and much sacrifices. While there are groups and individuals that came out alive at the end of the sufferings, some didn’t. One among such is Steve Biko.

Just like other great South Africans including Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko played a major role during the struggle for the freedom of South Africa. As a result of his sacrifice, he is seen today in South Africa as a lamp of freedom.

Steve Biko Biography

It was in the town of Tylden in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa that Steven Biko was born in 1946. Born Stephen Bantu Biko, Steve was the third child in a family of four children.

From his early age, Biko showed excellence in his educational pursuit as well as determination in the fight against apartheid.  He began his primary education at Brownlee Primary School, from where he went to Charles Morgan Higher primary school.

Biko continued his education at Lovalde high school in 1964. He couldn’t graduate from the high school however as a result of his political activities which got him expelled. He was however later able to secure admission into St Francis College from where he graduated in 1966.

After high school, Steven Biko attended the University of Natal Medical School. It was here that he sharpened his anti-apartheid spirit when he joined the National Union of South African Students. The union was a multiracial organization championing for the improvement of black citizens’ rights.

In 1970, Biko got married to Ntsiki Mashalaba, with whom he had two children. He as well had three other children with two different women; Dr. Mamphela Ramphele and Lorraine Tabane. One of the children he had outside marriage with Mamphela died at two months old.

The Struggle

Steven Biko was not comfortable with the activities of the NUSAS, which he believed didn’t represent the aspirations of black people. To this end, he left the group and formed the South African Students’ Organization (SOSA) in 1968.

Biko became the first president of the organization, basing its ideologies on black consciousness. His efforts saw the spread of black consciousness in higher institutions of the country in the 1970s. In the same period, he joined others to form the Black People’s Convention, collecting all black consciousness groups.

The activities of Biko and his organization soon became popular and in 1973 he was banned from carrying out any public activity as well as leaving his hometown of King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape. His organization was as well banned.

The ban, however, did not stop Biko from operating, as in 1975 he saw to the establishment of the Zimele Trust Fund. The fund was to be put through helping political prisoners and their families.

In August 1977, Steve and a fellow activist, Peter Jones, were arrested near Grahamstown for violating the Ban placed on Biko. While Peter Jones was released in 1979, Biko was murdered much earlier in 1977 by the police.

Biko’s death sparked a protest and made him one of the greatest martyrs of the south African struggle.

Steve Biko Legacies

Over thirty years after his death, Steve Biko has remained very relevant in the daily life of South Africans and the country. His ideals of freedom and equality remain vivid.

Although Steve Biko quotes were sometimes blunt, they still remain very relevant in the country. Some of his quotes are arguably among the best quotes of the apartheid period.

Some Steve Biko Quotes include:

  • In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift- a more human face
  • The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed
  • It is better to die for an idea that will live than to live for an idea that will die

Steve Biko movie, Cry Freedom, was a recap of his life with the aim of getting his legacies captured in the motion. The movie was directed by Richard Attenborough and it starred Hollywood’s, Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline.

Steve Biko Books

  • Black Consciousness in South Africa (1978)
  • Testimony of Steve Biko (1978)
  • I write what I like: Selected writings (2002)

 To his honor, the former Pretoria Academic Hospital, which was later called H F Verwoerd Hospital, was renamed after him. Since from 1994 with the end of apartheid in the country, the hospital became the Steve Biko Hospital.

Located in Pretoria, the hospital which began in the 1930s is affiliated with the University of Pretoria.