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University of South Africa confers honorary doctorate on Steve Biko

The University of South Africa has conferred a doctorate degree of Doctor of Literature and Philosophy (honoris causa) posthumously on Bantu Stephen Biko. Biko’s son, Samora Biko accepted the posthumous honorary doctorate. This year’s Biko Lecture was given by Zimbabwean academic Dr Ibbo Mandaza.



Photo: Steve Biko Foundation

Stephen Bantu Biko would have been 70 years old this year, and we are commemorating 40 years since he died. The 18th Annual Steve Biko Memorial Lecture took place at the University of South Africa (UNISA) under the theme “Biko 70/40- Inspiration Beyond A Lifetime.” The lecture was given by Zimbabwean scholar, Dr Ibbo Mandaza.

Biko, the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) was killed in detention in 1977 at the height of the apartheid regime. Biko’s contemporaries in struggle such as Thoko Mpumlwana, Thenjiwe Mthintso and Harry Nengwekhulu reflected back on when they were Black Consciousness Movement activists with Biko.

During the lecture Mpumlwana said, “Biko was an empowering leader who believed in each person’s potential.”

Read: Steve Biko’s 70th Birthday: Google pays tribute to Biko


The University of South Africa hosted a special graduation ceremony in which the degree of Doctor of Literature and Philosophy (honoris causa) was conferred on Biko posthumously. Biko’s son, Samora Biko accepted the posthumous honorary doctorate bestowed on his father.

The legacy of Biko looms large in South Africa but many times the honour he deserves is not given. Many have lamented on how the conferment of the honorary doctorate wasn’t well covered in South Africa.

Past comrades of Biko spoke about him, the struggle and the movement of the organisation, BCM. The University of the Western Cape has in 2012 awarded Biko with an honorary doctorate.


Read: A B;ack Consciousness: Word to Ntate Steve Biko

In his speech, Dr Mandaza said, “black consciousness is a child of pan-africanism,” and explored how power is a problem on the continent, corrupting many African leaders.

“The State has become the vehicle and agency for primitive accumulation and predatory conduct. In Africa, you enter the State House either as a former school teacher, liberation movement bureaucrat or security aide. . . When Kenneth Kaunda lost the election to Chiluba in Zambia in 1991, Mobutu of Zaire was heard to remark: “Kaunda losing the election? How? That’s stupid!” Well we all know how the Mobutu regime ended, with him dying in exile in Morocco,” Dr Mandaza said.


Biko remains an inspirational figure not just in South Africa but all over the continent. Before Biko was killed, he was a student at the University of South Africa.