Steve Biko’s Extraordinary Vision Kept Alive

JOHANNESBURG – It’s almost 33 years since Bantu Stephen Biko died in the custody of the apartheid police and over the past decade the Steve Biko Foundation has worked to make this extraordinary leader’s vision a reality for South Africans.

Steve Biko

Alongside dialogue initiatives like the Steve Biko Memorial Lecture – which takes place annually near the anniversary of his death, September 12th,   the Johannesburg-based Steve Biko Foundation is engaged in multiple programmes aimed at promoting the values Steve Biko lived and died for, restoring people to their true humanity.

“In the tradition of Biko, the Steve Biko Foundation works to empower individuals and communities to be active agents of change in their own lives and the life of the nation,” says Nkosinathi Biko, CEO of the Steve Biko Foundation.

In undertaking this, the Steve Biko Foundation aims to promote public engagement on government policy, popular culture and race relations through a series of lectures and seminars. At a community level the foundation runs programmes that seek to nurture and develop community based leadership, especially amongst the youth, as an avenue for the civic participation in the political, economic and the cultural life of South African society.

With an office in Biko’s home province of the Eastern Cape, the Foundation has become a multi-faceted entity that reminds the world – on an ongoing basis – of Bantu Stephen Biko’s visionary ideas and their contemporary relevance.

Many of these ideas are encompassed in “I Write What I Like”, a compilation of Biko’s articles and speeches (see additional resources below). More recently, the Steve Biko Foundation has published a comic book to enable younger readers and South African learners to engage with his life, work and ideas.

One of the Steve Biko Foundation’s current – and most ambitious projects to date – is the development of the Steve Biko Centre, a national legacy project.

The Centre is to be built near Biko’s home – Ginsberg Township, King William’s Town – and will focus on translating global interest in the legacy of anti-apartheid activist Bantu Stephen Biko into a developmental resource for the region.

Says Obenewa Amponsah, SBF Director of Fundraising & International Partnerships, “Often, the developmental agenda puts housing, electricity and water first and less emphasis is placed on the intangible, yet equally important aspects of heritage, culture and history.  The Steve Biko Centre will contribute to both facets of development, serving as an intellectual resource, while providing an economic opportunity for the region.”

The Centre will include a museum, an archive and library resource centre, a commemorative garden honouring human rights activists, training rooms, culture performance and production spaces, a community media centre and retail spaces.

What’s more, the Steve Biko Centre will also feature as the cornerstone of the Biko Heritage Trail.

This innovative initiative revolves around a series of Biko related sites in the Eastern Cape that have been declared national heritage sites and consistently earn both local and international attention.  Among these are the Biko Statue (Oxford Street, East London), Biko Bridge (Settler’s Way, East London), Zanempilo Clinic (Zinyoka), Biko’s Home (Ginsberg Township, King William’s Town), Biko’s Office (15 Leopold Street, King William’s Town) and Biko’s Grave (The Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance, King William’s Town).  These sites have not only been recognised by South Africa for their historic significance, but a number have also been placed on UNESCO’s interim World Heritage List by the global body.

“Of course there is a lot of work to do and funds to be raised but we are engaged in what is probably the most important legacy programme of the Steve Biko Foundation to date” says Nkosinathi Biko. “We believe wholeheartedly in the valuable role the Steve Biko Centre will play not only in the Eastern Cape, and South Africa, but the Continent and the Diaspora at large.”

A list of Biko’s writings and related publications are available through the Steve Biko Foundation, and these include:

* I Write What I Like a compilation of Biko’s writings and speeches, published after his death in 1978

* No Fears Expressed, edited by Millard Arnold, contains a number of Biko’s quotes

* Biko The Quest for a True Humanity exhibition catalogue,

* The Steve Biko Memorial Lectures 2000 – 2008 an anthology of the lectures

* The Steve Biko Comic Book – a rendition of Biko’s life designed to appeal to younger readers