Posted on April 25, 2024

Freedom Fighters Turning In Their Graves as Their Last Places of Rest Are Desecrated

Mashudu Sadike, IOL, April 24, 2024

SOUTH AFRICAN freedom fighters Steven Bantu Biko and Robert Sebukwe must be turning in their graves after news of vandals targeting their last place of rest emerged recently, sparking an uproar.

The latest incident was the desecration of the Black Consciousness Movement leader’s grave last week at Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance in Ginsberg, eQonce, in the Eastern Cape.

Bronze hands symbolising Biko stolen from his grave and sold to a scrap shop. Picture: Supplied
Last December, the grave of another Struggle icon and founding president of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), Sobukwe was also yet again found vandalised in his hometown of Graaff Reinet, also in the Eastern Cape.

Biko’s tombstone was on Friday found vandalised by criminals, who also helped themselves to the bronze fists displayed on the tombstone and emanating from the Struggle icon’s legacy.

Biko died on September 12, 1977 while in police custody. He was arrested for having violated an order restricting him to King William’s Town where he was headed.

According to the Azanian Peoples Organisation (Azapo), the organisation and the Biko family were alerted by the chief operations officer (COO) of the Steve Biko Foundation, Bruce Waters.

The culprit was later caught when he went to collect money he was owed by the scrap metal business he had sold the iconic hands symbolising Bikos’ shackles.

The tombstone, now a shadow of itself, was unveiled on March 27, 2017 and along with his house, are recognised national sites, by the SA Heritage Resources Agency.

In a statement this week, Azapo’s spokesperson Jabu Rakwena called out the government of the Buffalo City Municipality Metro, housing Biko’s grave, saying the organisation was puzzled that the municipality was not maintaining security in such important precincts.

He said he had more questions than answers as to how and why it would happen.

“Could it be that the BCM Municipality neither recognises nor cares about this great giant and the heritage he bequeathed upon us?

“Could it also be that the pivotal role played by Biko and sacrifices made to the people of Azania with his life, is insignificant to them?” asked Rakwena.

He called on the municipality to help fence the entire precinct and provide security, as it was overdue, while he called on the police to investigate.

Azapo, which will be contesting the May 29 elections, was saddened by the thuggery and vandalism, he said.

Attempts to reach the Buffalo City municipal spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya were fruitless.

The destruction of Biko’s grave follows that of Sobukwe, whose grave was also defaced at Santaville for the second time.

PAC president Mzwanele Nyhontso, who visited the grave at the time, said that the acts of vandalism undermined Sobukwe’s legacy.

He reportedly said: “Now this attempt to vandalise ended up vandalising the grave of five Apla cadres who were buried next to Sobukwe.

“Sobukwe’s grave, they tried to vandalise it but they were not successful. We condemn it, we believe it is the work of conservatives who refuse that Graaff Reinet must be named after Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe.”

Meanwhile in 2022, the Chris Hani Memorial site at the Thomas Titus Nkobi Memorial Park in Boksburg, containing other Struggle icons, was also vandalised following a Constitutional Court ruling which ordered the release of Hani’s killer, Janusz Walus.