Steve Biko’s Son
Nkosinati Biko on a close and present relationship with his father that is unusual for children in general and for the children of activists in particular.
Canada’s CBC Radio 1’s program, “The Current,” interviewed 40 year old Nkosinathi Biko about South Africa’s progress (and his dad’s legacy) 22 years after the unbanning of liberation movements (2 February 1990). The link is below. It’s part of a 27 minute package. The segment begins with some Malema audio of whites becoming domestic workers and people on the street. Biko is then introduced. The interviewer jumps in with questions about Malema, the singing of struggle songs, violence committed against white farmers, etcetera.
Biko, who was 6 years old when his father was murdered by the state, navigated the rather obvious interviewing approach in a nuanced and thoughtful way. He manages to highlight the interesting non-exceptional characteristics of political life in South Africa and eroded the tired binary that is most often elevated in media and public conversations about South Africa and Africa more broadly, here. I, for one, have a tendency to default to defensiveness in the face of arguments or questions about how troubled politics in Africa are. On the contrary, in this interview, Nkosinati Biko sheds light on nuance, the pragmatics of governance and activism. The interviewer wants to hear the son of Steve Biko dis the politics of post-apartheid South Africa. Biko does not oblige. The program also tried to exploit the human interest angle. Biko refers to his father as ‘Steve Biko’ or ‘Biko’ even when the interviewer directly asks about ‘dad.’ Maybe this is Nkosinathi Biko’s way of asserting that his interest in Biko is as an intellectual and activist. Perhaps he is making the point that while he is the son, we are all potentially the descendants. The very best part of the interview is its Njabulo Ndebele / Svetlana Boym moment. Biko reminisces about how his father’s house arrest was a gift to his young son. It afforded the boy an opportunity for a close and present relationship with his father that is unusual for children in general and for the children of activists in particular.