Forty years after police killed Black Consciousness Movement leader Steve Biko, no one has been prosecuted. That’s despite five officers being denied amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As the country commemorates another year since the struggle hero was killed, the inquest into Biko’s death should be reopened. The recent inquest into Ahmed Timol’s death sets an example. By GREG NICOLSON
In 2014, auctioneers Westgate Walding tried to sell Steve Biko and Ahmed Timol’s original autopsy documents. Biko’s had a reserve of R70,000 to R100,000. The families of Timol, who was allegedly killed by apartheid police in 1971, and Biko, killed by police in 1977, hired the same pathologist to conduct autopsies. He left his records to his assistant and when she died they ended up with her children. Then Westgate and Walding tried to sell the autopsies, including certificates from pathologists and post-mortem reports.
The auction was interdicted, but the grotesque attempt was symbolic. How can someone so blatantly disrespect South African struggle heroes, who were killed while fighting for freedom, their remaining loved ones, and the country? It’s simple, really: because justice, much like democracy, has never quite arrived and we commemorate the dead without actually honouring them.