FAQ's on Bantu Stephen Biko

1. What could have motivated Steve Biko's involvement in the Black Consciousness Movement?



In 1963, at the age of 15 years Steve Biko was admitted to Lovedale College, a missionary institution at which his older brother Khaya had enrolled a year earlier. Later that year, the two brothers along with 50 other learners were arrested on the suspicion that they were supporters of the outlawed Pan African Congress (PAC) aligned Poqo. Steve was interrogated by the police and despite the lack of evidence that he had any political inclinations, he was subsequently expelled and black listed from all government schools. Khaya was imprisoned for being a member of the banned PAC. Thus began Steve Biko’s resentment for authority and, according to Khaya, “the great giant was awakened”. By Steve Biko’s admission, when he was called as a witness for defence in 1976 at the trial of his colleagues in the Black Consciousness Movement, “from that moment on, I hated authority like hell!”

The 1963 incident had a truly profound influence on Biko’s political outlook. He had spent considerable time after he was expelled from school delivering food and other supplies to his brother and his comrades in prison. The developments of 1963 were Steve’s baptism by fire that led to the messages from Khaya and others finding resonance on a hitherto carefree and politically indifferent Steve.

2. Which aspect of Steve Biko's legacy is relevant now more than ever?

By placing emphasis on the individual as well as the collective, Biko’s legacy is far reaching in highlighting the inextricable link between history and biography between the struggles of society and the role of the individual. Further, Biko died at the tender age of thirty. Almost as many years later, his legacy continues to stand the test of intellectual inquiry, as South Africa continues to define itself as a nation. Particularly because of his young age, the substantive qualities of Biko’s legacy speak to the responsibility facing youth as custodians of our democracy, perhaps more so than with any other of the founders of our democracy.

3. What type of personality, hopes and dreams did Steve Biko have while growing up?

"Bantu" in the iSintu languages that are spoken in Southern Africa means "people". As a personal name, "Bantu" means: "the one for the people". True to his African name, Biko was popular in the community playing rugby and other sports with boys his age. Academically, he performed well, earning places at Lovedale College, St Francis College and eventually the University of KwaZulu Natal. At the Black Section of the Medical School of the University of Natal, Biko enrolled to become a medical doctor, and although that dream was not fulfilled, as his friend and colleague Barney Pityana noted, “While he didn’t become a medical doctor, he became a doctor for the soul.”

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