Steve Biko - 37 years on and still a hero

Today marks 37 years since the death of Steve Bantu Biko who died in police custody in 1977.

Today marks 37 years since the death of Steve Bantu Biko who died in police custody in 1977.

CAPE TOWN - Today marks 37 years since the death of former anti-apartheid struggle hero, Steve Bantu Biko.

Biko, who was born on 18 December 1946, died in police custody on 12 September 1977.

He founded the Black Consciousness Movement which would empower and mobilise much of the urban black population.

His writings and activism attempted to empower black people and he was famous for his slogan "black is beautiful", which he described as meaning, "man, you are okay as you are, begin to look upon yourself as a human being."

Biko married Ntsiki Mashalaba in 1970 and they had two children.

On 18 August 1977, Biko was arrested at a police roadblock under the Terrorism Act and interrogated for 22 hours.

The interrogation included torture and severe beating.

He suffered a major head injury while in police custody at the Walmer Police Station.

MEMORIAL LECTURE

The University of Cape Town last night held the 15th annual Steve Bantu Biko Memorial Lecture.

Outgoing United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was the guest speaker at the event.

She said there are a worrying number of armed conflicts of various types raging around the world which are taking a deadly toll of civilians.

Pillay said South Africa has yet to receive two UN repertoires and is not yet ratified the international covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights.

She added that South Africa has been a positive example internationally for its success in preventing conflict and for its constitution.

But she said the country needs to apply these values consistently.

For instance, it failed to intervene in Sri Lanka on grounds that it should not interfere in the internal affairs of another country, yet 40,000 people had been killed there when that government suppressed the internal protests.