From the book: No.46 - Steve Biko by Hilda Bernstein, 1978, South Africa

Thirteen Western nations sent diplomats to the funeral on 25 September. Police actions prevented thousands of mourners from reaching the funeral from Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and other areas. The police, convoys from leaving the three main cities on the grounds that in permits; while roadblocks nearer King William's Town turned back of cars and many buses, as South African police in camouflage uniforms and security policemen were stationed on all major roads leading into the town on 24 and 25 September.

Police armed with FN rifles and machine guns manned the roadblocks. Thousands of mourners from all over the country were converging on the town for the funeral of Steve Biko. People from the Transvaal had to pass through seven roadblocks. Cars were searched, and many people turned back. Thousands of mourners from the Transvaal were barred from funeral when permits were refused for buses. One of the speakers. Dr. Nthato Motlana, who flew from Johannesburg after he was blocked off when attempting to travel by road, said at the funeral that he had watched as black police hauled mourners off the buses in Soweto and assaulted them with truncheons. The physician said he had treated 30 of the mourners, some for fractured skulls, and said he had witnesses who would testify that a number of young women were raped.

Steve Biko was buried in a muddy plot beside the railroad tracks after a marathon funeral that was as much a protest rally against the white minority government's racial policies as a commemoration of the country's foremost young black leader. Several thousand black mourners punched the air with clenched fists and shouted 'Power!' as Biko's coffin was lowered into the grave. The crowd of more than ten thousand heard speaker after speaker warn the government that Biko's death had pushed blacks further towards violence in their quest for racial equality.

'Please, please, for God's sake listen to us while there is still just a possibility of reasonably peaceful exchange', said the Rt. Revd. Desmond Tutu, Anglican Bishop of Lesotho, leading a group of black churchmen.

The post-mortem had been done almost immediately, although the pathologist engaged by the Biko family was only informed after the autopsy had begun. This was completed by 18 September and preliminary reports began to appear in the press concerning findings of brain damage, a finding supported by the appearance of Biko's head at the funeral parlour, where observers noted an injury to the forehead.

Mrs. Ntsiki Biko, the widow of Steve Biko, works as a nursing sister in a mission hospital. After the autopsy had been performed, she spoke about her husband:

Steve Biko was a good man, he was a good father, but above all he was a leader.

His death in detention did not come unexpected to me. I knew that because he was a man of such convictions and beliefs only death could stop him from what he believed in.

But I am not satisfied with the way in which the State has said he died.

The first time she heard of her husband's death was when her sister notified her:

No policemen informed me, nobody told me, and it was only through my sister-in-law and my sister that the news reached me. I was numb with shock. But I kept telling myself, and will continue to tell myself, that my husband died in a struggle, during a struggle for the liberation of the black man in South Africa. Mrs. Biko spoke of her two sons, the two-year-old who still ran to the phone to call out 'Steve, Steve'; and Nkosinathi who is six and found it hard to accept the death of his father. "I couldn't even bring myself to tell him that Steve was in detention again because he knew something was seriously wrong and said to me, 'no Mama, you must not lie. I know he is dead'."

The Black Consciousness movement was dealt a legal death-blow in October, a month after Biko's death, when there was a massive government crack-down on the remaining opponents of apartheid race policies. In one sweeping action the government banned the Black People's Convention, SASO, the Black Women's Federation, writers', youth and student organisations and welfare groups in various parts of the country. The bans included some organisations, such as the Christian Institute of Southern Africa, that were not related to the Black Consciousness movement. With six other whites. Dr. Beyers Naude, director of the Christian Institute, was declared a banned person and served with an order restricting his movements and activities for the next five years, confining him to Johannesburg and preventing him from being quoted. (The Christian Institute was an inter-denominational, multi-racial group of clergy and laymen which had strenuously opposed the government's racial policies as being 'unchristian and inhuman'.) Donald Woods, editor and friend of Biko, was also banned, removing him from editorship of the Daily Dispatch, where he had been calling for an inquiry into Biko's death.

The World, the daily newspaper published for blacks (although white-owned) was closed down; its editor Percy Qoboza and journalist members of his staff taken into detention. 'They dragged him away as if he had killed somebody', said Qoboza's secretary. 'I'll never forget it... it was too much'. The Union of Black Journalists was among the newly-banned organisations.

'I sincerely believe in freedom of the press', commented Minister Kruger, 'but there are people in South Africa who can't write a straight story””they are politically committed'.

Peaceful intentions and protestations of non-violence had not saved them. The Black Consciousness leaders, like those of other once-legal organisations in the past, were now jailed (more than 200 were arrested as the organisations were banned), or silenced and confined. Or, like Steve Biko and Abram Tiro, dead.

Thus the movement that sought to build up among blacks an awareness and pride in their identity, as well as to build black unity, became one with all the others whose real crime was opposition to apartheid. These are the dusty answers to those who ask for freedom.