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Tafelberg Short: I remember Steve Biko

Tafelberg Short: I remember Steve Biko

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Tafelberg Short: I remember Steve Biko

5/5 (1 valutazione)
70 pagine
1 ora
Nov 26, 2012


Steve Biko made a deep impression on youngsters in his hometown, Ginsberg. Among them was Xolela Mangcu, who here delves into Biko's own childhood: Steve as prankster at Forbes Grant school, and his lack of interest in politics - until, at St Francis College, his brother Khaya is arrested and Steve too is bundled into a police car. Mangcu looks at how Biko has affected the course of his own life - and at the legacy he left, giving us the courage and the language to claim our freedom.
Nov 26, 2012

Informazioni sull'autore

Professor Xolela Mangcu is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Cape Town and Oppenheimer Fellow at the Hutchins Centre for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He has held fellowships at the Brookings Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard. He was also a Distinguished Fellow and Executive Director at the Human Sciences Research Council. He holds a PhD from Cornell University. Mangcu, a regular columnist for Business Day, the Weekender, the Sowetan and the Sunday Independent, has authored and co-authored seven previous books, including The Meaning of Mandela (2007), To the Brink (2008), The Democratic Moment (2009) and Becoming Worthy Ancestors (2011). His book Biko: A Biography (2012), a South African bestseller also published in the UK and US by IB Tauris, was shortlisted for the Recht Malan Nonfiction Prize as well as the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award. Mangcu was the founding Executive Director of the Steve Biko Foundation and grew up in King William’s Town.

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Anteprima del libro

Tafelberg Short - Xolela Mangcu



In My Mind’s Eye

"The struggle of man against power is the struggle of

memory against forgetting."


It was 12 September 1977. I remember my mother remarking on the oddity of the rain in the midst of the sunshine. AmaXhosa call that type of rain ilinci, and it is a bad omen. I also remember that it was a weekday because my mother – who was also my primary school teacher – and I had just returned from school. She had been preparing something for me to eat before I returned for after-school classes when someone knocked at the door. As she so often did, my mother asked me to answer the door. I called out: Forbes Nyathi is here to see you, and returned to the serious business of my lunch. Forbes is Steve Biko’s first cousin, as his mother Eugenia was Steve’s father Mzingaye’s younger sister. I took a second glance at Forbes, normally a cheerful fellow, and noticed the sombre look on his face. They both disappeared into my mother’s room, and all I could make out were whispers. When my mother came out of the room, she looked distressed. Something terrible had happened, she said: "uBantu uswelekile" Bantu is no longer with us. Everyone in our community called Steve by his first name – Bantu, a name which signifies being at one with the people.

Before I could ask more, she rushed me back to school.

Back at our school, chaos reigned. Steve’s niece Nompumezo was crying inconsolably in our Standard Five (Grade 7) classroom. The older boys summoned us out of class and instructed us to go back to the township. We would not be returning to school for weeks on end. This was of great concern because that meant there was a chance I would miss the exams for the last year of primary school. I had already expressed my desire to go to one of the more prestigious boarding schools for junior high school the following year. Given what was going on around me, this seemed like a self-indulgent thought. Community members streamed from all corners of the township to gather in the public square in front of our house. The question – and there seemed to be no satisfactory answer – was what had happened to Bantu?

The minister of justice, Jimmy Kruger, had issued a statement that Steve Biko had died from a hunger strike:

He was arrested in connection with activities related to the riots in Port Elizabeth, and inter alia for drafting and distributing pamphlets, which incited arson and violence . . . Mr Biko refused his meals and threatened a hunger strike. But he was regularly supplied with meals and water which he refused to partake of.[1]

The community was outraged. This explanation for deaths in detention had been offered too many times for anyone to take it seriously. I remember the anger of the crowd – especially the youngsters. I particularly remember the agitation of the twin brothers with biblical names, Joseph and Daniel, who lived at the back of our house. The youths were urging the assembled group to take revenge on the whites in town. Cooler heads prevailed and that line of action was abandoned. The anger turned inward. The discussion suddenly turned into speculation about who might have been the police informer. The next thing, a large group of youths went on a rampage. I ran home.

For the next few days a dark cloud of smoke hung over our township – literally and figuratively – as government installations and homes of suspected police informers went up in flames.

The youth targeted teachers because they were seen as part of the system of Bantu Education. My brother, who was a school principal at the nearby township of Zwelitsha, had his house destroyed by a mob of students and he moved into our home in Ginsberg. I was afraid for our home as well but nothing happened to us. My mother sent me to the shops to check out a group of youngsters who had threatened my brother about coming to find him at our house. The boys saw through my mission and warned me not to tell on them.

In the ensuing mayhem over the next few days I found myself staring at a policeman with a rifle. He was in camouflage behind a shrub. I turned and ran back as fast as I could. That kind of near encounter with death never left my memory. Under apartheid too many people were killed by being shot in the back, fleeing from the police – from Sharpeville to June 1976. I was lucky to come out of that experience alive, to somehow tell the story not only of Steve’s death but also of his life.

Over the next two weeks our little township became the focus of the world. Hundreds of people from all over the country and from all over the globe descended on Ginsberg to hold a vigil at

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