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Publication Details

Reference
Tleane, Console  (2004) Shifting Sands: Steve Biko’s Legacy, Efforts to Commercialise Him and the Foundation. Centre for Civil Society : 1-17.

Summary
This paper seeks to make a case for the defence of the legacy of Steve Biko
that seems to be under threat from a number of initiatives that claim to be
advancing his legacy. To encourage a more informed debate, a conscious
decision has been taken by this writer to steer away from what can easily, and
wrongly, be misconstrued as personal attacks on those who are at the
forefront of some developments that make a claim to Biko’s name. Unless
there are no other ways of approaching the debate, references to individuals
will be avoided.
In trying to address the stated aim of this paper the following shall be
examined in some detail. First, I examine the legacy of Biko and how I think
it should be understood and preserved. Second, I examine the manner in
which both the Steve Biko Foundation and some of the initiatives that claim
to be preserving Biko’s legacy are doing it and argue that they are doing it in
a wrong and, in fact, dangerous way. The conclusion that I reach in this paper
is that these attempts and claims should be challenged. Such challenges must
be understood within a context of robust political debate and not necessarily
be reduced to so-called personal attacks.
Before proceeding, let me state that robust debate is a crucible of maturity.
Attempts to close any form of debate by labelling it as personal attacks runs
the risks that amount to closure and the upholding of certain ideas as being
absolute and beyond criticism. This approach is dangerous and belongs to the
conservative Judeo-Christian tradition. Those who enter the realm of politics,
and by association public space, should do so knowing very well that their
ideas and actions will be scrutinised, celebrated and/or heavily criticised, all
these depending on how well they are received.
Public debate is like shifting ocean sands. While soothing, especially when
the feet are splashed by the ocean waters, the sand keeps on shifting. It is
easy to delude oneself and keep on enjoying the soothing feeling, of the
stories that you tell yourself, without realising that, splash after splash, the
sand shifts and soon the feet are sinking, angle-deep.

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