Honourable Chairperson of SRAC Portfolio Committee, Mr Vuyani Limba, and other members of the Provincial Legislature
Mhlekazi, Chairperson of House of Traditional Leaders, Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana
Sisi Ntsiki Biko, in absentia, and members of the Biko Family
Board Members of the Steve Biko Foundation, and Staff in attendance
Head of Department, Mr Mzolisi Matutu and Government Officials from various departments
Religious leaders and community representatives
Dr Hlulani Mdinga from the University of South Africa
Heads of other Museums and Heritage Bodies in our midst
Educators, Learners and school choristers who have graced this occasion
Artists that are providing entertainment here
Members of the Media
Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning, goeie more, molweni.
Programme Director, I greet you all this morning exactly 41 years after the brutal assassination of anti-apartheid activist and renowned political and community leader, Bantu Stephen Biko. Steve Biko, ideologically an African nationalist and an African socialist, fell in the trenches with his military boots on in advancement of the struggle for national liberation, freedom and democracy after severe and brutal assault by state security officers on 12 September 1977. That was a black day in contemporary South Africa’s history, as a young activist, merely 30 years old, had to pay the ultimate price of death to ensure South Africans attained freedom and democracy in our lifetime.
We are gathered here during celebration of Heritage Month, and the theme for 2018 is: “The Year of Nelson Rholihlahla Mandela: Advancing Transformation of South Africa’s Heritage Landscape”. This theme is located within the broader context of Tata Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Centenary Programme that pays tribute to the selfless role that was played by the internationally recognized icons of South Africa’s glorious liberation struggle who would have turned 100 years if they were still alive in 2018. Steve Biko followed in the footsteps of these gallant sons and daughters of Africa, and he took the baton and waged a massive struggle that unsettled the apartheid regime, as his political teachings began to find traction and resonance among young black and white South Africans who began to understand and appreciate the value and significance of being black, and African in particular within the context of South African politics at the time. It was thus Steve Bko Steve along with others including Mapetla Mohapi who guided the movement of student discontent into a political force unprecedented in the history of South Africa, and his peers were responding to developments that emerged in the high phase of Apartheid, when the Nationalist Party was restructuring the country to conform to its policies of separate development. By the same token, Biko rightfully and correctly believed that black people needed to rid themselves of any sense of racial inferiority. This was in stark contrast to the teachings and ideology of the apartheid state that classified South Africans along racial, cultural and spiritual lines. Steve Biko was ahead of his time, he was a visionary who clearly understood the benefits and importance of peace, unity, social justice, patriotism and social cohesion if South Africa was to achieve any sense of political and economic stability and tranquility. He is thus remembered for empowering Black voices, installing a sense of Black pride and for taking the liberation struggle forward and galvanising the youth movement.
Programme Director, we mourned the passing on of Steve Biko on this day in 1977, but today we are gathered here to celebrate a life well lived. Though Steve Biko was killed before this 31st birthday, his influence in South Africa was, and continues to be profound. It should be remembered that Steve Biko was a champion of community development, rural development and empowerment of women and the youth. Through the Black Peoples Convention (BPC), Steve Biko saw the need and took an initiative to develop a healthcare centre, Zanempilo in Zinyoka and this facility became the nerve centre of BPC activities. In the words of Mama Mamphele Ramphele, the facility became “the guesthouse for visitors from far and wide that came to see the project and consult with Steve Biko on a wide range of issues”. This is just an example of community development initiatives that Steve Biko championed to ensure his people could benefit from his knowledge and expertise. The critical question is, what are we doing with our expert knowledge and skills to help others without expecting monetary compensation. Thuma Mina is a rallying call for all of us to extend a hand of assistance to those South Africans who need our help the most. The state of the economy compels us to lend a hand to desperate South Africans who are trapped in poverty, particularly women and children in rural areas, farms and townships.
The Department will continue to work closely with the Steve Biko Foundation to ensure this day is commemorated annually without fail. More importantly, the Department will continue to support the Steve Biko Foundation to plough the seed into the youth to begin to understand and appreciate that they have an important role to play in society to ensure South Africa develops socially and economically. The youth are tomorrow’s leaders and the future is in their hands, hence it is critical for them to be empowered with the necessary knowledge and skills to make South Africa a better place to live in. The Steve Biko Centre is not only a facility to conserves and promotes tangible and intangible aspects of our past, but it has positioned itself as a centre of educational and cultural excellence. The library is a wonderful resource that provides learners, researchers and community members with literary and documentary information, while the museum provides material that deals with the country’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, particularly information on our struggle history. The auditorium and other spaces provide the youth with theatres to showcase and promote our living heritage in a manner that is developmental and also fosters social cohesion. The Department is proud of the centre’s contribution to the development of our cultural industries, and will continue to strengthen relations to ensure more communities benefit from your productions. The centre has also become a preferred space for social dialogues, and this is helping South Africans to dialogue and debate issues that affect South Africa so that solutions thereto can be found.
Programme Director, allow me to extend a hand of gratitude to the Steve Biko Foundation for taking Steve Biko’s vision forward. Participation of the youth in the activities of this centre provides us with an opportunity to plant the seed of democracy to the young ones so that they become better ambassadors of our ethos of the “Rainbow Nation”. South Africa is strategically positioned as the drive of unity, peace and social cohesion on the Continent of Africa, and we can no longer accept that our country is used by criminals to commit hate crimes and xenophobic attacks against fellow African brothers and sisters. This is not what Steve Biko campaigned for, he pushed for a united and cohesive South Africa that we can all be proud of. We thus all have a responsibility to live to that call.
Working together, we can achieve more!
I Thank You