12 September 1977…. 

A Sequence

of events whilst in detention 18 Aug. to 12 Sep. 197711
  August 18, Biko is arrested

Steve Biko was travelling in a car with a friend Peter Jones, an executive member of the BPC. The car was stopped outside the King William’s Town at a roadblock, by Lieut. Oosthuizen of the Security Police. The two men were taken to Grahamstown; the next day they were taken to Walmer Jail, Port Elizabeth and held under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act, in the custody of the Security Police under the command of Colonel Goosen.

He is kept naked in a cell for 20 days

For the next twenty days Biko was kept at Walmer Police Station, naked, manacled, and not allowed out of his cell even for air or exercise. His daily ration of food was soup, magewu,* bread, jam and coffee.

According to the sergeant in command, the soup and magewu were refused, and Biko ate little bread.

September 2, Magistrate’s visit

On 1 September a magistrate made a formal visit to Biko in his cell. Biko complained that he had not even been permitted to wash himself. He asked the magistrate for water and soap to wash himself and a washcloth and comb. He asked: “Is it compulsory that I have to be naked?

I have been naked since I came here”. The magistrate made no reply.

September 6, interrogation room 619 Sanlam building in Port Elizabeth

On the morning of 6 September, Biko was taken from the Walmer Street prison by security police, and brought to Room 619, Sanlam Building, for interrogation. The police state that they were with him from 10.30 a.m. until 6 p.m. From 6 p.m. he was in the care of the ‘night squad’ (led by Lt. Wilken) naked, handcuffed and with one leg chained to a grille.

Room 619 at 7 A.M. on 7 September

Major Harold Snyman, head of the interrogation team of five, arrived at 7 a.m. and according to his statement, removed Biko’s leg-irons and handcuffs. At this time, or very close to it, Biko received the blows that caused brain damage and resulted in his death five days later. The police were unable to continue their interrogation. Biko was again handcuffed and chained to the grille.

7.30 A.M. 7 September, Biko already has brain damage

Colonel Goosen was informed that there had been an “incident”. At 7.30 he arrived at Room 619 and spoke to Biko, who, he said, seemed incoherent and talked in a slurred manner. There was a visible swelling on his upper lip.

9.30 A.M. Dr. Lang dives medical check-up

The district surgeon Dr. Lang was called in. He examined Biko in the presence of Col. Goosen. At the Colonel’s request he made out a certificate that there was no evidence of any abnormality or pathology on Biko.

Night of 7 September. Biko lies on mat, chained and in leg-irons

The Security Police attempted once more to interrogate Biko, but he was totally unresponsive. For the rest of that day, and for that night, Biko lay on a mat on the office floor, manacled and chained by his leg as before.

September 8, Dr. Lang comes and brings Dr. Tucker

Dr. Lang returned. Col. Goosen told him that Biko had not urinated during the past 24 hours, and had refused all offers of food. Lang re-examined Biko, and then requested that the chief district surgeon. Dr. B. J. Tucker, examine Biko with him. Although the trousers Biko had been wearing (for the interrogation) and the blankets were now soaked with urine. Dr. Lang noticed no change and Dr. Tucker did not question Biko. It was decided to transfer him to the prison hospital.

Evening of 8 September, Biko is taken to prison hospital

A specialist physician Dr. Hersch, was consulted; it was agreed that a lumbar puncture should be performed. Biko was transferred to the prison hospital.

Night of September 8, prison hospital

A warder stated that during the night of 8 September he twice found Biko lying in a bath, the first time clothed in a bath filled with water, the second time the bath was empty.

September 9

The lumbar puncture was performed early in the morning.

September 10

Hersch informed Lang that the lumbar puncture showed the cerebrospinal fluid to be bloodstained. It was decided to consult a neuro-surgeon, Mr. Keeley, by telephone; Keeley gave the opinion that there was no evidence of brain damage, but Biko should be kept under observation. He saw no reason why Biko should not be transferred back from hospital to the Security Police, provided he was kept under observation.

September 11, Biko is taken back to a cell

In the morning the Security Police took Biko from the hospital, and bed, back to a cell at Walmer Police Station. He was left on a mat on the cement floor of the cell, naked under the blankets.

He is found collapsed

A few hours later a warder found Biko lying on the floor with foam at his mouth, and glassy-eyed. He informed Major Fischer, who phoned Col. Goosen.

He is driven naked through the night to Pretoria

Dr. Tucker examined Biko at 3.20 p.m. and saw no objection to Goosen sending Biko on a journey of 740 miles by road to Pretoria. Naked and manacled, he was left lying on the floor of a Land-Rover, with nothing except a container of water.

September 11-12, Pretoria prison

He was carried into the prison hospital and left on the floor of a cell, without any medical records, 11 hours after leaving Port Elizabeth.

September 12 ,Dr. Van Zyl gives intravenous drip

Several hours later, a newly-qualified doctor, with no medical information about him other than that he was refusing to eat, ordered an intravenous drip.

Biko dies

Some time that night Biko died, unattended.

• Bernstein, H. (unknown), No. 46-Steve Biko [online]. South African History Online

• Mufson, S. (1990), Fighting Years: Black Resistance and the Struggle for a New South Africa, Boston: Beacon Press.

• Ndlovu S. M. (1978), The Soweto Uprisings: Counter-memories of June 1976.

• Woods Donald, Biko, New York: Paddington Press.

Remember this? “Life goes on “

“How many brothers fell victim to the streetz

Rest in peace young nigga, there’s a Heaven for a ‘G’

Be a lie, If I told ya that I never thought of death

My niggas, we the last ones left

But life goes on
As I bail through the empty halls

Breath stinkin’

In my jaws

Ring, ring, ring

Quiet y’all

Incoming call

Plus this my homie from high school

He’s getting bye

It’s time to bury another brother nobody cry

Life as a baller

Alcohol and booty calls

We used to do them as adolescents

Do you recall?

Raised as G’s

Loc’ed out and blazed the weed

Get on the roof

Let’s get smoked out

And blaze with me

2 in tha morning

And we still high assed out

Screamin’ ‘thug till I die’

Before I passed out

But now that your gone

I’m in the zone


‘I don’t wanna die all alone’

But now ya gone

And all I got left are stinkin’ memories

I love them niggas to death

I’m drinkin’ Hennessy

While tryin’ ta make it last

I drank a 5th for that ass

When you passed

Cause life goes on

Yeah nigga

I got the word as hell

Ya blew trial and the judge gave you

25 with an L

Time to prepare to do fed time

Won’t see parole

Imagine life as a convict

That’s getten’ old

Plus with the drama

We’re looking out for your babies mama

Taken risks, while keepin’ cheap tricks from getting on her

Life in the hood

Is all good for nobody

Remember gamin’ on dumb hoties at chill parties

Me and you

No true a two

While scheming on hits

And getting tricks

That maybe we can slide into

But now you burried

Rest nigga

Cause I ain’t worried

Eyes bluried

Sayin’ goodbye at the cemetary

Tho’ memories fade

I got your name tated on my arm

So we both ball till’ my dying days

Before I say goodbye

Kato and Mental rest in peace

Thug till I die


Bury me smilin’

With G’s in my pocket

Have a party at my funeral

Let every rapper rock it

Let the hoes that I used to know

From way before

Kiss me from my head to my toe

Give me a paper and a pen

So I can write about my life of sin

A couple bottles of Gin

Incase I don’t get in

Tell all my people I’m a Ridah

Nobody cries when we die

We outlaws

Let me ride

Until I get free

I live my life in the fast lane

Got police chasing me

To my niggas from old blocks

From old crews

Niggas that guided me through

Back in the old school

Pour out some liquor

Have a toast for tha homies

See we both gotta die

But ya chose to go before me

And brothers miss ya while your gone

You left your nigga on his own

How long we mourn

Life goes on


Life goes on homie

Gone on, cause they passed away

Niggas doin’ life

Niggas doin’ 50 and 60 years and shit

I feel ya nigga, trust me

I feel ya

You know what I mean

Last year

We poured out liquor for ya

This year nigga, life goes on

We’re gonna clock now

Get money

Evade bitches

Evade tricks

Give players plenty space

And basically just represent for you baby

Next time you see your niggas

Your gonna be on top nigga

Their gonna be like,

‘Goddamn, them niggas came up’

That’s right baby

Life goes on

And we up out this bitch

Hey Kato, Mental

Y’all niggas make sure it’s popin’ when we get up there

Don’t front.”