29 July 1979
Steve Biko was born in King Williams Town and began his political career as the co-founder of the all-black South African Student's Organization (SASO). It was from his involvement in this organization that his ideas on black consciousness as a movement were developed. The aim of the Black Consciousness Movement was to address the psychological impact of apartheid, and to unite all non-white South Africans under a Black identity, thus uniting in their fight against apartheid. Steve Biko's popularity and following began to grow in the 1970s, and he was increasingly seen as threat to the apartheid government. In 1973, Biko was banned by the South African government and until his arrest and death in 1977 he was frequently questioned, detained and harassed by the apartheid police. Biko was arrested on 8 August 1977 under a law that made provision for his indefinite detainment. He was reportedly kept naked and in chains for 24 days, during which he also underwent severe beatings, torture and starvation. Biko later died on arrival at a medical treatment facility. The apartheid police denied their involvement in Biko's death, and stated that it was due to a hunger strike. However, the autopsy revealed that his death had been caused by a number of blows to the head, thought to have been inflicted by the South African Police. The circumstances around Biko's death were publicly revealed by journalist Helen Zille, and in 1978 a case of prosecution was opened against the police who were reportedly involved in Biko's arrest and detainment. During the trial, the presiding judge ruled that a charge of murder could not be laid because there were no witnesses. On 29 July 1979, the apartheid government reportedly paid the family of Steve Biko R65, 000 in compensation for his death in custody. The Minister of Police, Louis le Grange, said the state was not admitting liability, and that the file on the 'Biko affair' had been closed. During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings almost ten years later, five former members of the South African security forces confessed their involvement in Steve Biko's death. References: Biographies - Hall of Fame: Steven Bantu Biko [online] Available at: zar.co.za [Accessed 21 July 2009] Kalley, J.A.; Schoeman, E. & Andor, L.E. (eds) (1999). Southern African Political History: a chronology of key political events from independence to mid-1997, Westport: Greenwood.