AZAPO denounces auction of Biko letter
Steve Biko Foundation to try to stop sale of letter to preserve struggle artefacts
THE Azanian People’s Organisation (AZAPO) has decried the recent sale of a historic letter of struggle icon Bantu Steve Biko in the United States. The letter, dated 12 January 1977 and which was auctioned on the 16 November 2017 by an US-based American company Nate D. Sanders Auctions, was about Biko’s request to be granted permission to consult with the lawyers working on his fellow Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) Mapetla Mohapi’s inquest.
Mohapi died the previous year in police custody. It was suspected he was killed by the apartheid security police.
In the letter, Biko wrote: “I have been asked by the attorney representing the Mohapi family in the above matter to make myself available for consultations on the 16th January with their Counsel as well as attend the inquest which has been set down for the 17th and 18th January.
“Kindly grant me the necessary permission to enter the premises of the King William’s Town Magistrate’s Court on the relevant dates and to attend the consultations which will be held somewhere in King William’s Town. I do not as yet know where exactly Mr Mxenge plans to have the consultation. Yours Faithfully, BS Biko.”
Speaking to African Times, AZAPO Secretary General Zithulele Cindi said: “We (have) decried such predatory behaviour of people who see misery and sufferings associated with our struggle as avenues for making quick bucks. It is not the first time that such attempts were made.
“We are reminded of attempts to have the Biko Autopsy record auctioned.
“Our attitude is that while some of these items or artefacts are primarily family heirlooms but they are ultimately material that needs to be housed in museum about struggle exploits and activities for posterity.”
Cindi said that the recent auction showed a worrisome lack of government’s intervention in the preservation of historic monuments of struggle icons.
“There is a biased account of the history of our struggle whereby one section of the liberation movement has arrogated unto itself the role of being our liberator single-handedly. Until the correct history of struggle is relayed there can be nothing to be happy or satisfied about.”
He also said that despite the sale having gone through, they had met with the Steve Biko Foundation in an effort to halt the auction.
“We have engaged with fraternal organisations such as the Steve Biko Foundation to raise our objection and do our best to have the auction stopped.
“They were also actively working with other organisations and institutions abroad to prevent the auction”
As this year marks 40 years since Biko’s death by apartheid police on 12 September 1977, the party says that it will continue to cling onto the recognition of anti-apartheid activists.