South Africans on Tuesday commemorated 40 years since anti-apartheid activist and Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko was killed while in police custody in 1977.
Politicians and their parties had a few words to say about the fallen activist, with the Democratic Alliance (DA) tweeting: “Biko stood for the idea which said that we are not defined by the colour of our skin or the shape of our nose, but by the content of our character.”
#SteveBiko stood for the idea which said that we are not defined by the colour of our skin but by the content of our character.
— Democratic Alliance (@Our_DA) September 12, 2017
The tweet caused an uproar on social media because the quote was from American activist Martin Luther King Jr, except for the part about the shape of one’s nose.
The party apparently included that part for “maximum impact”.
Author Khaya Dlanga was the first to point out the quote was not from Steve Biko.
“Hey DA, wrong black guy. Also, wrong continent,” he tweeted the party.
Others on Twitter responded with Biko’s quotes, which suggested he was very much aware of the racism in South Africa, and in fact, believed the opposite of what Martin Luther King Jr’s quote said.
“Biko’s belief: No matter what a white man does, the colour of his skin is his passport to privilege,” commented one, while another wrote: “I am against the fact that a settler minority should impose an entire system of values on an indigenous people.”
“White liberals must leave blacks to take care of their own business while they concern themselves with the real evil in our society – white racism.”
The party responded to the criticism, and said it never suggested Biko said that, but was only “noting” that he stood for the idea behind the American activist’s quote. But the party’s explanation seems to have only caused more trouble for them.
It was further criticised for “thinking” it knew what ideas Bike stood for, instead of quoting what he really stood for. In fact, what the American activist said was relevant in America, not Africa, they argued.
“Would it surprise you that Martin Luther King and Bantu’s ‘ideas’ were at odds on some fronts … and historical contexts of South Africa and the US should not be conflated?” said one.
There were, however, those who said the party did nothing wrong, as it did not say it was quoting the anti-apartheid activist. The DA only said Biko stood for the idea, they argued.