A tale of two martyrs

14 September 2020 | Opinion

This weekend saw the somewhat muted commemorations of the deaths of two giants in the anti-apartheid pantheon, Namibia's Anton Lubowski and South Africa's black consciousness exponent, Stephen Bantu Biko. Both were cut down in their prime; Biko having been beaten to death in apartheid police custody on 12 September 1977 and Lubowski gunned down on the same day in 1989, as a new dawn beckoned for his nation. Both remain martyrs for a dream that was much bigger than them. Lubowski, who by all accounts was one of the icons of the bitter years before freedom finally came, was an advocate who defended political prisoners and was heavily involved in Namibia's trade union movement. His heart was genuinely with the downtrodden and bled for the plight of workers and their families. At its heart, Biko's black consciousness demanded pride, self-assertion and self-confidence. Biko's idea was that this would, in turn, stimulate a “revolution of the mind”, allowing oppressed peoples to overcome the racial inferiority and fear propagated by white racism, so they could appreciate that they were not just “appendages to the white society”. This relatively simple idea radically changed perceptions of the struggle. His death led to greater international pressure. In the same breath, Lubowski was simply ahead of his time in terms of embracing the equality of all, and it is a sad indictment that his family still waits for real answers regarding his assassination.

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