Tuesday, 13 September
Forty-five years after struggle icon Steve Biko died in police custody in Pretoria Central Prison, South Africa is still working towards achieving his vision of a country built on human dignity, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In his weekly newsletter, the president reflected on Biko’s death and legacy.
Biko was just 30 years old when he died in police custody, a death described by the family’s lawyer, Sir Sydney Kentridge, as “a miserable and lonely death on a mat on a stone floor in a prison cell”.
“He was cut down in his prime by those who feared the power and resonance of his ideas of self-liberation and his efforts to infuse black men and women with pride and dignity,” said Ramaphosa.
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Despite being a democracy for 28 years, the country still faced challenges such as poverty, unemployment, and inequality, he said.
“As a result, we often lose sight of how far we have come in giving effect to the principles on which our Constitution is founded and that anchored Steve Biko’s thought and teachings.
In South Africa today, we continue to work to fulfil the basic rights of every South African so that they may lead quality lives free of disease, hunger and deprivation. Successive democratic administrations have implemented policies to salvage the lost dignity of this country’s majority by providing education, health care, housing and basic services.”
These policies included access to education, social support and public employment programmes.
“In considering the relevance of Steve Biko’s life and legacy, we recall his powerful call to the people to be architects of their own liberation. This call is as important now as it was back then.”
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