Who spoke at Steve Biko's funeral sermons
"September '77, Port Elizabeth, weather fine. It was business as usual, in police room 619, Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko, Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko. Yihla Moja, Yihla Moja. The man is dead." "Biko" by Peter Gabriel
Forty years ago, the death of a black student leader heralded the end of apartheid in South Africa. September 12, 1977 was a trauma for the black majority in South Africa - and a turning point in the mood of the world public towards the racist Boer regime.
20 years later, the police officers responsible for his death stood before the truth commission, which was supposed to ensure reconciliation in South Africa. Despite a partial confession, the commission refused to grant them amnesty. But they never had to pay for what they did. However, it must have been a pathetic spectacle when the officers recounted their version of the death of Steven Biko in 1999. Harold Snyman, who led the interrogation against the opposition activist in 1977, said that Biko had been deprived of sleep in order to make him compliant. In the notorious torture room "Police-Room-6-1-9" in the headquarters of the security police in Port Elisabeth, the 30-year-old then became aggressive and, despite his leg irons, pounced on the officers.
Jakobus Beneke, Daniel Siebert, Gideon Niewoudt, another sergeant and he, Snyman, only defended himself. During the fight, Biko fell and hit his head hard against a metal filing cabinet or the wall, it was almost an accident. "He was lying there like a boxer who was knocked out," said Snyman.
But instead of being taken care of, he was thrown into a solitary cell for two days and handcuffed to the bars there - although unconscious. Allegedly to prevent suicide. Chained, almost naked and with a severe skull injury, broken ribs and battered kidney, he was driven 1200 kilometers on the bunk of a police Land Rover to the army hospital in Pretoria. When he arrived after twelve to 14 hours, Stephen Bantu Biko, whom everyone just called Steve Biko, died of his injuries on the evening of September 12, 1977 in the capital.
"That leaves me cold"
After all, the police officer Snyman admitted two decades later that Biko had been beaten with a hose and fists by his officers while he was in his care. One day after the death of the father of three small children, it was initially said that Biko had died on a hunger strike, then he is said to have inflicted the injuries himself. Finally, under pressure from white liberals, an investigation was initiated which documented excessive evidence of the use of force on the corpse. However, according to the report, involvement of the police could be ruled out.
The then Justice Minister James Thomas Kruger also long denied Biko's violent death. When he finally had to admit the real cause of death, he only commented: "Dit laat my koud" (that leaves me cold). But outside of his National Party he had long lost confidence: within a few months there were dozen cases of alleged "clumsiness" that are said to have led to the deaths of black political prisoners: slipped on the soap in the shower, tripped on the stairs , fallen over a chair, fallen out of the window, choked while eating, hanged oneself or strangled oneself, some of the official causes of death.
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