by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has paid tribute to Stephen Bantu Biko on the 45th anniversary of the latter’s murder at the height of apartheid in South Africa.
He died in police custody in Pretoria Central Prison on September 12 in 1977.
Ramaphosa lamented that Biko was denied human dignity, the principle at the heart of his black consciousness activism.
The family lawyer, Sir Sydney Kentridge, remarked that Biko’s was “a miserable and lonely death on a mat on a stone floor in a prison cell.”
Ramaphosa echoed these sentiments in his weekly letter on Monday.
“In 1977 a heartless regime killed one of our country’s most promising leaders by depriving him of the food, water and medical treatment he urgently needed as a result of brutal beatings by the apartheid police,” Ramaphosa stated.
Biko was 30-years-old when he died.
“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,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the death of Biko was an inspiration to democratic governments in their quest to uphold human rights since the demise of apartheid in 1994.
Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) has ruled South Africa since independence.
He conceded that 28 years into democracy, South Africa was confronted with many challenges, such as poverty, unemployment and inequality.
“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,” Ramaphosa said.
He said government must be focused on addressing our prevailing challenges to achieve a truly free and equal society.
“As Steve Biko urged, let us march forth with courage and determination on our common quest for true humanity,” he concluded.
– CAJ News