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Stephen Biko founded the South African Students Organization (SASO) in 1968 and was co-founder in 1972 of the Black People’s Convention – also called the Black Consciousness movement – a radical association of South African students that aimed to develop black pride.
An active opponent of apartheid, Biko was arrested in September 1977. He died in detention six days later after allegedly being beaten to death by white prison guards.
Determined to stop his popular leadership galvanising blacks into action, the white government issued orders restricting his freedom and detained him regularly before putting him in prison.
Following his death in the custody of South African police, he became a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement. An inquest in the late 1980s found no-one was to blame for Biko’s death.
Five former security policemen confessed to being involved in Biko’s murder in January 1997. They applied for an amnesty to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) – the body charged with healing South Africa by exposing its past and laying foundations for a more peaceful future.
The amnesty application angered Biko’s family, and his widow challenged the legitimacy of the TRC in the Constitutional Court.