Port Elizabeth – Nelson Mandela University held the 7th annual Steve Biko memorial lecture on Tuesday(12th September 2017) at South Campus Auditorium hosting keynote speaker, Professor Molefi Kete Asante, from the Temple University in Philadelphia.
Acting Vice- Chancellor Dr Sibongile Muthwa welcomed guests and added that this lecture is needed to restore the social fabric that is in tatters as the country is facing many challenges. “This evening I would like to focus on the fact that the annual Steve Biko memorial lecture has become something of institution here at Nelson Mandela University, this year we are hosting the 7th lecture which is special for special reasons. Firstly, it falls on the exact day of the 40th anniversary of [Biko’s] tragic death at the hands of the apartheid system. The lecture tonight should thus have a special meaning and significance for all of us simply because the theme is attractive to us as the Nelson Mandela University.”
The activist intellectual Prof Asante is a president of the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies and Professor and Chair Department of Africology and African American Studies at the Temple University. Prof Asante was well received by the mixed audience which boasted of school children coming from as far as Uitenhage, the Mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Athol Trollip, AZAPO leadership, Chair of Council Ronnie Pillay and Members of Senate.
The keynote speaker spoke under the theme “The Afrocentric Vision of Bantu Stephen Biko.” He described Biko as one of the most original thinkers as he relied on only what was organic and did not rely on what Europeans had told him.
“Bantu Biko was one of the greatest and revered Africans of all time, his great talk was our talk and he spoke for us [Black people] throughout the world as our black consciousness leader. He believed that umntu ngumntu ngabantu.” The speaker then spoke of Biko with reference to the book ‘I write what I like’. He drew a link between Afrocentricity and Black Consciousness which was something that Biko advocated for. He further illustrated how the issue of mental slavery that Biko spoke against is still prevalent in modern day society and in different black nations.
A jiff of conflict erupted when student respondents, Zolisa Marawu, Okuhle Dyosopu and Mbongisi Dyantyi were on stage because of the small amount of time that was allocated for each speaker to respond to the address. A student, Sipumeze Sipunzi and a few audience members demanded that respondents be given more time to respond to the address. The issue was then swiftly addressed by one of the programme directors who allowed for more time to be given to the respondents. Ex Nelson Mandela University Lecturer Professor Simphiwe Sesante spoke about the behaviour of the audience and the Sipunzi saying that “Biko advocated for self-respect and respect for other black people.”
The audience was treated to a powerful performance by Lelethu Mahambehlala known as Poetic Soul whose CD was available for purchase as well as a book edited by Allan Zinn, Director of the Centre for the Advancement of Non-racialism and Democracy, which has a written and DVD series of all the previous lectures.