Apart from Nelson Mandela, nobody symbolised the struggle against the apartheid more than Steve Biko.
The leader of the Black Consciousness movement, he was arrested at a police road block in August 1977 and held under the country’s terrorism legislation. He died shortly after arriving at Pretoria prison the following month..
Born on December 18 1946, Google is commemorating what would have been his 70th birthday with a commemorative Doodle in recognition of his role in the modern history of South Africa.
“On the 70th anniversary of Biko’s birth, we remember his courage and the important legacy he left behind. Thank you, Steve Biko, for dedicating your life to the pursuit of equality for all,” said Google.
Who was Steve Biko?
Steve Biko was born in the Ginsberg Township in what is today South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.
The third of four children he was educated at Lovedale, a boarding school in Alice, Eastern Cape, before graduating from St Francis College, Roman Catholic institution in Mariannhill, Natal.
He then studied medicine at the non European section of the University of Natal.
How did he get involved in the anti-apartheid movement?
Biko had already been expelled from Lovedale for his political activities,. Having been involved with the National Union of South African Students, he felt that black, coloured and Indian students needed their own body.
This led to the creation of the South African Students Organisation (SASO) which eventually became the Black Consciousness Movement.
“Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time,” he said.
Once again his activism led to his expulsion, this time from Natal University He was also a victim of the draconian apartheid laws in place at the time.
In February 1973 Biko was banned, which meant he could not address a public gathering or even speak to more than one person at a time.
What was his role in the 1976 Soweto uprising?
Undaunted by the restrictions, Biko continued organising protests.
At Soweto a squalid township south west of Johannesburg, high school students protested at the use of Afrikaans as the language of instruction.
It culminated in scenes which shocked with world with 170 people, mainly children, being gunned down by the police. As the international community united in condemnation, the South African government targeted Black Consciousness activists.
Biko was arrested on August 27 1976 and held in solitary confinement for 101 days before being released.
What were the circumstances of his death?
Biko was arrested at a police road block. Stripped and manacled for 20 days he was taken to the headquarters of Security Police in Port Elizabeth.
Badly beaten he was shackled to a grill before being taken on a 600 mile journey to Pretoria, where he died shortly arriving at the prison on September 12 1977.