Happy birthday Steve Biko!

  Steve Biko  was born on the 18th of December 1946 in Tarkastad in the Eastern Province (now Eastern Cape) on 18 December 1946, the third child of Mzingaye Biko and Nokuzola Macethe Duna.

A radical opponent of the Apartheid regime, his death was a blow to the anti-Apartheid movement as he had become the voice of the anti-Apartheid movement in the 1960s when the African National Congress and the Pan-Africanist Congress had been banned.

In August 1977 Biko was arrested together with his associate Peter Jones for being outside his district after hours and because the police had ”reason to believe” he was distributing inflammatory pamphlets. Biko had also violated his banning order as he had travelled to Cape Town from the Eastern Cape, his home area. They were arrested under Section 6 of the 1967 Terrorism Act that allowed indefinite detention without trial for the purposes of interrogation in solitary confinement. He was held, naked and with little food, in a Port Elizabeth police station from August 19 to September 6 1977.

Sometime before the morning of September 7, he suffered a head injury that would eventually be cited as the cause of his death five days later. Bikos’ was the 45th known death connected with detention by the security police since 1963.

Steve Biko at the Long March To Freedom in Fountains Valley Pretoria

In February 1999, Steve Biko’s family welcomed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s decision not to grant amnesty to the policemen involved in the death of Biko. The committee dismissed the application by the four former Port Elizabeth security policemen for amnesty for Biko’s death in custody. The TRC committee found that the policemen, did not qualify for amnesty because their actions in Biko’s death could not be associated with a political objective. The committee was also not satisfied that the men made a full disclosure of the facts.

The panel also officially declared the next of kin of Mr Biko as victims (of gross human rights violations) in relation to his killing and therefore entitled to appropriate reparation.   The committee concluded that the attack on Biko appeared to have been actuated by ill-will or spite towards him. However in 2008, AZAPO (Azanian Peoples Organisation) accused the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of not doing enough to uncover the truth behind Biko’s death. The organisation believes South Africa set a bad example to the world by not bringing perpetrators to book.

On the 40th anniversary of his death in September 2017, there were renewed calls for the inquest to be re-opened in the light of the Ahmed Timol Inquest of July 2017 which was seen by some as a precedent that needed to be followed.


  1. Hoffenberg. ‘The Steve Biko Inquest.’ The British Medical Journal . Vol. 1, No. 6105 (Jan. 14, 1978)








The 1949 ANC Programme of Action

Today marks exactly 68 years since the ANC adopted the Programme of Action.

In 1943, during World War II, young members of the ANC, critical of what they considered the passivity of the ANC, formed their own organization, the Congress Youth League (CYL). Overcoming the opposition of ANC president Alfred Xuma, the CYL succeeded in 1949 in electing James Moroka to the presidency, seating three CYL members (Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and Nelson Mandela ) on the party’s national executive body, and in persuading the congress formally to adopt the Program of Action. The Youth League put pressure on the ANC leadership to adopt the Programme which included mass resistance tactics such as boycotts, strikes, civil disobedience and non-co-operation. It also stressed the need to organize African Workers into unions.

Anton Lembede. Founding President of the ANC Youth League.

This was to be a more radical approach to resistance, as they shunned the traditional moderate stance of ANC leaders like Xuma who believed in appealing to the conscience and common sense of the oppressive regime. This shift was especially necessary after 1948 when the National Party (NP) was voted into power by the white electorate and began implementing strict apartheid measures. The Programme of Action laid the foundation for a new era of active resistance in the form of the Defiance Campaign of 1952, anti-pass campaigns and acts of civil disobedience.


‘African National Congress Youth League.’ (ANCYL) https://www.nelsonmandela.org/omalley/index.php/site/q/03lv03445/04lv03446/05lv03450.htm

‘The Congress Youth League and the Programme of Action.’ http://www.country-data.com/cgi-bin/query/r-12098.html





The Africans’ Claim

On the 16th of December 1943, the Africans’ Claim was presented at the annual ANC Conference in Bloemfontein.

Africans’ Claims in South Africa is the title of a document drawn up by a committee of 28 members and sympathizers of the African National Congress (ANC) and on 16 December 1943 unanimously accepted at the ANC’s annual Conference. It was created in response to the Atlantic Charter passed two years earlier, in which former President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill set out the objectives of the Allies during the Second World War and their ideas of the world order after its end formulated. The central points of Africans’ claims were the demands for universal suffrage and for an end to racial segregation in South Africa. This document charted the path to racial equality in South Africa that they hoped would follow the conclusion of the Second World War.

Alfred Bitini Xuma, who became President of the ANC in 1940, inherited an organization in disarray and set out to rebuild the ANC against great opposition. Under his leadership, the ANC constitution was revised and the organization became more efficient and centralized, thus attracting a wider following. Xuma was central to the adoption of the Africans’ Claims document at a time when the ANC was increasingly becoming politicized and there were increasing calls for a departure from petitions and conciliatory methods. The conclusion of the document read;

In short, we demand the repeal of any and all laws as well as the
abandonment of any policy and all practices that discriminate against the
African in any way whatsoever on the basis of race, creed or colour in the Union
of South Africa.

The full text of the document can be found on the ANC website.


‘Africans` Claims in South Africa.’ http://www.anc.org.za/content/africans-claims-south-africa

‘Dr. Alfred Bitini (A.B.) Xuma (1893 – 1962).’ http://overcomingapartheid.msu.edu/people.php?id=65-251-13F

The Day of Reconciliation

Today we celebrate Reconciliation Day and the history behind the holiday.

The Day of Reconciliationalso previously called the Day of the Vow, the Day of the Covenant, or Dingane’s Day, is a public holiday observed in South Africa on December 16.

Initially, this holiday commemorated the  victory of the Voortrekkers over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838 . Prior to the battle, the Voortrekkers had taken a vow that, if they succeeded in defeating the Zulus, they would build a church and observe the day as a religious holiday. This observance was recognised as Dingane’s Day, which was named after the Zulu King, King Dingane and was later established as a public holiday in 1910.

In 1952 the National Party passed the Public Holidays Act, which changed Dingane’s Day to the Day of the Covenant and officially declared the day a religious holiday. In 1980 the holiday was changed to the Day of the Vow. This public holiday prohibited activities such as sports events and theatre performances from performing on this religious day.

This public holiday became increasingly significant in 1961, when the African National Congress’ (ANC) military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”) was formed.

After the first democratic elected government was established in South Africa in 1994, the holiday was officially renamed the Day of Reconciliation. This public holiday gained more attention when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that examined apartheid human rights abuses, started their investigation in a ceremony on 16 December 1995.

The 16 December is celebrated as a public holiday so that South Africans can foster a sense of national unity and racial harmony.






The Symbolism behind Abdullah Abdurahman’s Bronze Figure

Today marks 145 years since Dr Abdullah Abdurahman was born.

To honour this doctor, President of the African People’s Organization, Life-long member of the Cape Town City Council and the Cape Provincial Council, we would like to share the symbolism of each of the objects displayed on his #LongMarchToFreedom bronze figure.

The Cross Pin on the Jacket Lapel refers to the Order for Meritorious Service where he was awarded posthumously by the President for his work “against racial oppression”.

The Tie Clip in the form of a key with three loops represents a South African Police Handcuff Key to symbolise his oppression. The key is further depicted in the #LongMarchToFreedom bronze sculpture of his daughter, Cissie Gool.

The various Coins as substitutes for buttons is symbolic of his capitalist occupations, especially in contrast with Cissie Gool’s socialist inclined ideology. The only button not substituted has the serpent and sword insignia which alludes to his medical qualification.

The 5 Pens and Pencils in his pocket reflects the 5 learning institutions and schools he established for Coloured persons.

The Miniature Toy Lion in the time piece pocket refers to a toy used to entertain children as a paediatrician and general practitioner.


International Human Rights Day

On Friday 10 December 1948 The United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The day was from then recognized and celebrated as International Human Rights Day.

When the General Assembly adopted the Declaration, with 48 states in favor and eight abstentions, it was proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”, towards which individuals and societies should “strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.” Countries across the world celebrate this day every year.

It is in line with this that our heroes at the Long March to Freedom strove to see to it that all South Africans enjoy their rights in a free nation.

Watch this video to learn more;





The Nobel Peace Prize Award:

Today we remember those who received the Nobel Peace Prize Award during the struggle.

On 10 December 1961, president of the then banned African National Congress (ANC), Albert Luthuli was awarded the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize for his role as the leader of ten million Africans in the non-violent struggle against apartheid. Due to the apartheid government restricting his movements, Luthuli was only granted special permission in 1961 to attend the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway.

He was the first African and individual outside of Europe and the Americas to been awarded this prestigious accolade in Oslo, Norway. His famous statement “the road to freedom is via the cross” clearly depicts his dedication to freedom and his aversion to violence.

The 10 December became quite a remarkable date for South Africa, as Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize exactly two years after Luthuli received his. Mandela and de Klerk were honoured with the prize due to “their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”

To learn more about Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela and Frederik de Klerk receiving the Nobel Peace Prize visit:






“The Nobel Peace Prize 1960”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 4 Dec 2017. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1960/


“The Nobel Peace Prize 1993”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 3 Dec 2017. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1993/




Mandela’s move to Victor Verster Prison

On 7 December 1988 Nelson Mandela was transferred to Victor Verster Prison in Paarl. He was there for 14 months in a cottage until he was released from prison on 11 February 1990. 

Struggle icon and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was quietly transported from a clinic outside Cape Town to a house on a prison farm in Paarl. He was placed at the prison because it was close to doctors and hospitals as it was during this time that he was recovering from Tuberculosis. The house where Mandela stayed was previously used for house officers but was refurbished once the struggle icon moved in.

Mandela’s transfer was the first step in what appears to be a Government strategy to move him to less austere accommodations rather than free him outright. The government, who charged Mandela with a life sentence on charges of conspiracy to overthrow the government and sabotage, vetoed suggestions to free him completely. They believed that by freeing him that it would result in a wave of demonstrations on his behalf and would inevitably lead to possible violence.

Reports by the authorities on Mandela’s move to Victor Verster Prison prompted repeated rumors that he would be released soon. The government who initiated the transfer hoped that this move would be taken as a conciliatory gesture, which in turn, increased the rumours that Mandela would be released soon. Although this move did allow certain privileges for the struggle hero, Winnie Mandela refused the unlimited visiting hours the Government had offered her. She was quoted as saying she would adhere to the 40-minute period she has been allowed, because she still considered him a political prisoner.

As seen in the New York Times article dated 8 December 1988, Mandela’s lawyer at the time, Mr. Ismail Ayob reported that:

”I spoke with Mrs. Mandela,” Mr. Ayoub reported. ”Her reply was that Mr. Mandela still remained a prisoner of the South African Government and that the concession made today to him personally is clearly a response to the domestic and international pressure for his release.”

Although this move to Victor Verster Prison helped to facilitate a transition to freedom, Mandela was only released after living at the prison for 14 months.




‘The hour of youth has struck!’: Anton Lembede and The Formation of the ANC Youth League

Today Anton Lembede would have celebrated his 70th birthday this year, had he not died so young at 33. We honour this founding member and first president of the ANC Youth League in the #LongMarchToFreedom. Visit him and other Young Lions, #Tambo, #Mandela and #Sisulu at #FountainsValley, Pretoria.

‘The hour of youth has struck!.’ So proclaimed a flyer issued by the Provisional Executive Committee of the newly formed ANC Youth League, advertising the organisation’s first conference to be held in September 1944.

The Youth League had launched six months earlier, at Johannesburg’s Bantu Social Centre in March 1944 but it was at the September conference that Anton Lembede was elected from among his equally dynamic peers to become first president of the ANC’s youth wing.

Outstanding because of his intellect, qualifications and passion, the dynamic leader invented and was greatly driven by the ideal ‘Africanism.’ He had a deep and almost fanatical love for Africa and would, on occasion remark that, ‘I live for the freedom of my people, and I shall die for Africa’s freedom’. It is no surprise that the motto of the Youth League was ‘Africa’s’ cause must triumph!’

According to Lembede’s close friend and housemate Ashby P. Mda, the first person to mention or suggest the founding of a Youth League was actually Manasseh T. Moerane. However, Moerane was not to take a leading role in the formation of the League and subsequently has not been noted in popular histories of the ANCYL.

Both founding members, Lembede and Mda had become close friends in 1943 and had to share accommodation as a result of their low wages. Their time together was spent engaging in intellectual discussions which gave birth to the ideals that were to shape the organisation and future generations to this day.

Mda acknowledged that Lembede ‘took his word in many things’ and was very respectful and loving toward him. He never wanted to clash openly with him, but in private they had intense arguments. He would attack others publicly but was to Mda ‘as soft as a newly wedded maiden’. This gave others the impression that Mda was steering Lembede from behind the scenes, but in fact they clashed in privately on many issues of principle.

Bronze statue of Anton Lembede at Fountains Valley Resort in Pretoria

In the 1930s the ANC, under the leadership of Alfred Bitini Xuma, had been revived but its methods remained cautious and respectful towards the white elite. Every resolution of the ANC started with statements like, ‘We pray the Minister… We humbly request…’  Annoyed by this pacifism, this group of young intellectuals became agitated and demanded a shift towards a more militant style of politics. Jordan Ngubane, a youth leader regarded as a philosopher, together with Lembede and Mda drafted the League Manifesto, although Lembedes’ ideas are said to have dominated the document.

 Although Xuma was worried that the manifesto was disrespectful as it was scathingly critical of the senior ANC, he still gave the youth support. The document pointed out that the formation of the Youth League was based on criticisms against the ANC which was seen as elitist and ‘not an efficiently organised bloc’, lacking a ‘constructive programme to enforce the repeal of all oppressive legislation’. The Youth League aimed at imparting to the ANC a national character rooted in African nationalism and African self-determination.

Many older ANC leaders dismissed the League as irresponsible and cheeky, partly because Lembede was extremely passionate and dogmatic about his beliefs. However, his influence was shown when the moderate Xuma lost the presidency in 1949 to James Moroka who was more supportive of the Programme of Action presented by Lembede in the same year.

Sadly, Lembede died prematurely on the 30th of July 1947 at the age of 33. Mda took over leadership and formed a working committee consisting of Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela. These, as history has shown went on to further prove that indeed the hour of youth had struck.


Glaser Clive. The ANC Youth League. Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2012.

Karis Thomas and G.M Carter. From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882-1964. Vol 2. California: Hoover Institution Press, 1979.

Statement during the Anton Lembede Memorial Lecture at the University of Fort Hare. 10 October 2002. http://www.ancyl.org.za/search.php?search=Anton+Lembede+&submit=search&sa=

Gerhart, Gail M. Interview with Mda, A.P. 01 January 1970. http://www.aluka.org/action/showMetadata?doi=10.5555/AL.SFF.DOCUMENT.gerhart0016

Queen Labotsibeni: Stateswoman, Revolutionary and Pioneer

On the 5th of December 1925, Queen Labotsibeni passed away.

Born in 1858 at eLuhlekweni northern Swaziland, Labotsibeni was a Princess of the Mdhluli section of the Swazi Nation. She was the wife of Ngwenyama Mbandeni and mother of Bhunu Heli Mahlikhlo Ngwane III and grandmother of King Sobhuza II. She was proclaimed the Ndhlovukazi (Queen) after the death of her husband in 1889 and ruled for 36 years, first as the Queen mother and then as the Queen Regent as Sobhuza was too young to rule.

Queen Labotsibeni at the Long March to Freedom in Pretoria.

Labotsibeni’s ascension to the throne was rather atypical as Swati traditional laws did not allow a woman in her situation to rule. Second, her clan, Mdluli, was not next in line to rule Swaziland. In spite of this, she was chosen because of “her outstanding intelligence, ability and character and experience.” Also known as Gwamile (meaning the indomitable one) she was acknowledged by many representatives of Britain as one of the cleverest rulers in Africa, a shrewd diplomat who bravely led and defended Swaziland.

During her reign she tried to regain tracts of land that her husband had lost to European settlers by raising 40 000 pounds to buy it back, however she was not successful. Her campaign coincided with protests against South Africa’s 1913 Natives’ Land Act. In solidarity, Labotsibeni contributed to the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) 1914 delegation to Britain to protest the act. In 1921 she and Crown Prince Sobhuza, later King Sobhuza II, financed and co-founded the Abantu-Batho newspaper, the mouthpiece of the SANNC. A strong African nationalist, the Regent had registered the infant Prince Sobhuza as a member of the ANC at its inception in 1912.

A rainmaker and one of the richest women in South Africa, she was not known to wear European clothes although the Queen of England is said to have sent her many. This was perhaps a sign of her Africanism and being grounded in tradition. She died in Swaziland at the age of 80.

We remember this great woman and icon of the struggle for freedom today at the Long March To Freedom.


Christison, G. 2007. African Jerusalem: The Vision of Robert Grendon. PhD Thesis, University of KwaZulu-Natal, pp.773 and 774.

Ginindza, T. 1996. Labotsibeni/Gwamile Mdluli: The Power Behind the Swazi Throne, 1875-1925, Annals, New York Academy of Sciences, pp.135-158.

Mkhonza, S. 2012. Queen Labotsibeni and Abantu-Batho. In: Limb, P. ed. 2012. The People’s Paper: A Centenary History and Anthology of Abantu-Batho. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.

Mokoatsi.Thapelo ‘Pioneers: Swazi Queen labotsibeni’ http://www.thejournalist.org.za/pioneers/pioneers-swazi-queen-labotsibeni\

Skota Mweli. T. D. The African Yearly Register: Being an illustrated national biographical dictionary (who’s who) of Black folks in Africa  (c.1930)