Stephen Bantu Biko was only 30 when he died.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/South African History Online

Stephen Bantu Biko died in police custody 41 years ago on September 12 1977. He remains one of our country's most iconic struggle heroes and his life and ideas continue to inspire generations.

Thousands of words have been written about Biko, but there are some facts about him that are not well known. These include:

1. HIS NAME MAKES A SENTENCE WITH THE NAMES OF HIS SIBLINGS

Biko was the third child of four children. The eldest is named Bukelwa, his older brother Khaya and his younger sister is Nobandile. Together, their names create the saying “Hayi ukuBukeka kweKhaya laBantu aBandileyo” which means “We admire the expanded family”.

2. HE WAS EXPELLED FROM SCHOOL

Despite the lack of evidence, authorities at Lovedale School accused Biko, his brother and 50 other students of supporting an organisation affiliated with the banned Pan Africanist Movement (PAC) and he was expelled aged 15. According to his brother, this event politicised Biko.

3. HIS SEMINAL WORK I WRITE WHAT I LIKE WAS PUBLISHED POSTHUMOUSLY

The work is a collection of Biko’s writings between 1969 and 1972 when he was the president of South African Student Organisation (Saso). He wrote under the pseudonym Frank Talk.

Women walk past the statue of Steve Biko in East London.
Image: Fanisile Mazwi/Financial Mail

4. CELEBS PAID FOR THE STATUE OF BIKO IN EAST LONDON

The statue of Biko erected in East London in 1997 was made possible by donations from actors Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline, musician Peter Gabriel and business magnate Richard Branson, who donated money at the behest of Biko’s long-time friend Donald Woods.

Woods was the journalist portrayed by Kline alongside Washington as Biko in the movie Cry Freedom.

5. HE DIED BEFORE MEETING ONE OF HIS SONS

Although Steve Biko was married to Ntsiki Mashabala and had two sons with her, he was also in a relationship with academic and anti-apartheid activist Dr. Mamphele Ramphele.

Their first born sadly died from pneumonia at two months old. Dr. Ramphele fell pregnant again but gave birth to their son, Hlumelofour months after Biko’s death.

6. THE STUDENT AFFAIRS BUILDING AT UCT IS NAMED AFTER HIM

Although Biko's partner Dr. Mamphele Ramphele was vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town from 1997 to 2000, it was her successor, Prof Njabulo Ndebele, who had a building on campus renamed in his honour in 2005.

The Steve Biko Union Building houses the students’ representative council (SRC) and other student societies.

7. HE'S BEEN HONOURED WITH A GOOGLE DOODLE

On what would have been his 70th birthday, Google celebrated the life of Biko by creating a doodle not only for South Africans, but also for Google users in Britain, Portugal and  Kazakhstan.


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