Who is Steve Biko?

Steve Biko was an activist who fought against apartheid in South Africa. He organized basic campaigns against apartheid under what he called the “Black Consciousness Movement”. While studying medicine at the University of Natal, Biko enrolled at the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), a body that fought for equal rights. The inclusion of white liberals in NUSAS meant that Biko reconsidered the effectiveness of multiracial political activism and induced Biko to create the South African Student Organization (SASO), which he hoped would attract African blacks

Early life

Bantu Stephen Biko was born in December 18, 1946, to Mzingaye Mathew Biko and Alice Biko. He grew up in King William’s Town, where his father worked as a police officer. However, it was the poor working conditions experienced by his mother, who was employed as a domestic worker, to politicize Steve Biko. His father died when Steve was four, leaving his unemployed mother to meet their needs.

Biko studied at St. Andrews Primary School for two years before moving to Charles Morgan Higher Primary, which is based in Ginsberg. His good interpretation inspired the community to offer him a chance in 1964 to study at the prestigious Lovedale school, which was located in the Eastern Cape. However, he was later expelled for allegedly developing a connection with Poqo, an armed branch of the Pan Africanist Congress.


Biko was interested in the law, but was discouraged by close friends who considered the law too tied to political activism. Therefore, he chose medicine instead with the hope of achieving a better future. As a member of NUSAS, he attended the conference of the Christian University Movement in July 1968, which was held in Stutterheim, South Africa. It was here that black members, many of them Africans, decided to hold another conference in December of that year in order to plan the formation of an organization only for black students.

In July 1969, the South African student organization (SASO) was officially launched and the guidelines and the constitution were approved. Biko did not substantially contribute to the initial phase, hoping to strengthen his leadership as the group progressed. As a reader, Biko borrowed heavily from the writings of Malcolm X and Frantz Fanon, individuals who were agitated for Black Consciousness, an ideology he had developed. In 1971, in one of the SASO posters, the ideology of the Black Consciousness, was defined “an attitude of the mind, a way of life.” The fundamental principle of Black Awareness is that blacks must reject all value systems that try to make them foreigners in the country where they were born and reduce their fundamental human dignity.

Subsequent years and death

Although it was forbidden to Biko to travel outside the city of King William, he left for Cape Town with the intention of meeting Neville Alexander, a president of the Movement of Unity. While returning to King William’s Town, Biko was arrested and imprisoned in various police stations under difficult conditions. He was seriously beaten by the officers, causing a cerebral hemorrhage and subsequently other complications that led to his death on September 12, 1977.

by Abdullah Sam
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