Cape Town –
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has been barred from giving a lecture in memory of Steve Biko, who died 35 years ago.
Stephen Bantu Biko died in police custody on September 12, 1977.
The founder of the Black Consciousness Movement is widely regarded as a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement.
Zille told the Cape Argus she had been due to speak at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, but had been denied permission by the university’s management.
“They argued that there was already a lecture on Wednesday – which is an illegitimate excuse as it’s a different day and on a different campus – and that I had not been given permission of the Biko family.”
Zille said this second reason was “ludicrous” too.
“Great historical figures are spoken about all the time,” she said.
The university’s alleged argument has also raised eyebrows because Zille was famously courageous as the journalist who first broke the scandalous news about Biko’s murder in prison, writing for the Rand Daily Mail.
She has also, on numerous occasions, shared platforms with those close to Biko, such as businesswoman and activist Mamphela Ramphele, who had two children with him.
“The university’s decision amounts to censorship,” Zille said. “Steve Biko would have been outraged.”
Instead, Zille visited the Walmer police station where Biko was detained and tortured during interrogation.
“It is worth recalling the most famous phrase attributed to him: ‘It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die.’
“Apartheid is dead. Biko’s ideas live on. It is incumbent on us to ensure that they are a beacon on the road to a genuine and sustainable democracy and genuine liberation,” Zille said.