The Indictment


Because of who he was, because of his special stature, and because of the attendant circumstances, the death of Steve Biko symbolizes the ultimate consequence of apartheid with all its implications.

The obscene laws which constitute apartheid are not crazed edicts issued by a dictator, or the whims of a megalomanic monster, or the one-man decisions of a fanatical ideologue. They are the result of polite caucus discussions by hundreds of delegates in sober suits, after full debate in party congresses. They are passed after three solemn readings in a parliament which opens every day’s proceedings with a prayer to Jesus Christ.

There is a special horror in that fact.

This indictment will now seek to show that there is no valid apologia for those responsible; that they are culpable and indictable; that they are fit to stand trial.

Every year vast sums of South African taxpayers’ money are spent financing embassies, missions, films, advertisements, symposia, and lobbies to put what is referred to as “South Africa’s” case. I will now put the case for their defense in the manner in which they present it to the world. And I will reply to each point of their case.

This case is based on the claim that white South Africans have a right to determine their own destiny in this country, on the grounds that their forebears arrived here at the same time as those of the black people. This is untrue, and is a politically motivated fabrication given currency only in South African history syllabuses. Besides, it is totally irrelevant. Even if it were relevant, it would be no justification for 15 percent of the population to assume unjust political domination of the 85 percent. But the historical point of arrival of whites in South Africa is not at issue. Not one significant black leader in South African history has ever disputed the right of white South Africans to stay in South Africa.

They say that they are a minority of the total population only because, unlike the white colonists of America and Australia, they did not commit genocide upon the blacks as was committed upon the American Indians and Aborigines. Genocide was in fact practiced to a certain extent upon the indigenous Khoisan, but in any event a comparison of degrees of genocide upon indigenous people by white settlers in America and Australia generations ago is again not relevant to the moral and political issues here in this country today. Besides, the policy of apartheid has resulted in death for multitudes of blacks. While this may not validly be described as a calculated policy of genocide, it does not help to justify the results of apartheid.

A special claim is entered on behalf of Afrikaners as an African people—the first African Nationalists and the first to throw off the colonial yoke. It is said that the Afrikaners must defend what they have because they have nowhere else to go.

No black leader of any consequence denies that…

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