Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Steve Biko's cell at Walmer police station

Today is the 35th anniversary of the death of Steve Biko, anti-apartheid activist and founder of the Black Consciousness Movement.  I was invited to visit the police cell at the Walmer Police Station where Biko was kept after his arrest in 1977 before he was taken to the Sanlam Building in town where he was tortured.  I hadn't seen the cell before and was glad that the opportunity has come my way as it is one of only a few heritage sites in Port Elizabeth I haven't visited.  The visit was supposed to be followed by a commemorative lecture by Helen Zille, at the time one of the journalists to expose the story and today leader of the official opposition, at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University but it seems that the university buckled under political pressure from student groups and denied Ms Zille permission to do the lecture. 
On 18 August 1977, Biko was arrested at a police roadblock under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967 and interrogated by officers of the Port Elizabeth security police.  This interrogation took place in the Police Room 619 of what is known as the Sanlam Building in Port Elizabeth.  The interrogation lasted twenty-two hours and included torture and beatings resulting in a coma.  He suffered a major head injury while in police custody, and was chained to a window grille for a day.
On 11 September 1977, police loaded him in the back of a Land Rover, naked and restrained in manacles, and began the 1100 km drive to Pretoria to take him to a prison with hospital facilities. He was nearly dead owing to the previous injuries.  He died shortly after arrival at the Pretoria prison, on 12 September.  The police claimed his death was the result of an extended hunger strike, but an autopsy revealed multiple bruises and abrasions and that he ultimately succumbed to a brain hemorrhage from the massive injuries to the head, which many saw as strong evidence that he had been brutally clubbed by his captors. Then journalist and now political leader, Helen Zille, along with Donald Woods, another journalist, editor and close friend of Biko's, exposed the truth behind Biko's death. - Wikipedia


  1. What hope for this country when the so called intelligent youth cannot listen to the leader of the opposition. But then of coursse the truth may hurt.

  2. If I was interested in going visit the cell do you know who I would need to contact ?

    1. I'm not sure who to contact, but I would suggest getting in touch with the Walmer Police Station directly and see if it is possible