(first off, apologies for the silence of the blog of late, I’ve been adjusting to a new lifestyle)
This is a hard post for me to write. I very seldom give up on books, but this is a hard read. It is the first hand account of what happened to Steve Biko, as written by friend, journalist and editor Donald Woods. I thought I should read it, not only because of Wood’s journalistic background but also because it is an election year, and Mamphela Ramphele was a close friend of Steve Biko’s in fact, she introduced Wood and Biko to each other.
I’ll come clean: I didn’t finish the book. It doesn’t end happily (because it was written at the most violent period of apartheid) and even with the hindsight of living in a free democratic South Africa, I couldn’t read about the beatings, torture and injustice these men endured.
The book comprises of Wood’s dealings with Biko, and he has included lectures by the icon as well as a transcription of the inquest into his death at the hands of security police (of course the inquest found them not-guilty and they got off scott-free). It is a hard read, but I think one that any student of politics or history, or both should try to wrestle with.
If you didn’t know: Steve Biko was literally beaten to death. And it took a few days for him to die, they think that he had a stroke as a result of a head injury, while the apartheid state claimed that he died of a hunger strike. Steve Biko was a natural leader and one of the most prominent propagators of Black Consciousness
The hardest part is that much has not changed for the very poor and marginalised in this country, while the party that fought for it’s freedom has now become it’s jailers. I can’t help but wonder what the country would have been like if Steve Biko had been allowed to live.
Good luck to you if you do try and read it, and I would recommend that you try. I have paired it with the Reyneke red from Woolies, its an organic dry red that could have aged a bit more.