Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Wednesday, October 28, 1998 Published at 10:56 GMT

World: Africa

Biko murder hearings resume

Biko's death sparked widespread protest

A former South African policeman has said that interrogators left black activist Steve Biko chained and untended for 24 hours after he was beaten during questioning 20 years ago.

Gideon Nieuwoudt is last of five former officers to be cross-examined at a Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing into Mr Biko's death in 1977.

Mr Biko - widely seen as the greatest martyr of the anti-apartheid movement - died in police custody. At the time, the police said he had behaved violently and that he hit his head while struggling.

His family believes he was thrown at the wall deliberately and was maltreated as he lay dying.

Mr Nieuwoudt told the hearing on Monday that during questioning, Mr Biko had tried to attack a police officer. He and his colleagues had grabbed the prisoner, and their momentum resulted in Mr Biko's head hitting a wall.

"If he had been given immediate medical attention, Mr Biko might have been alive today," Mr Nieuwoudt said.

Mr Biko was not examined by a doctor until the day afterwards.

Four other police officers who interrogated Mr Biko have admitted to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that they beat him and that they lied about the date of his death, but they still say his death was accidental.

Mr Nieuwoudt said he hit the 30-year-old activist with a rubber hose to try and restrain him.

"My observation was that Mr Biko was arrogant, aggressive and he didn't answer questions at all," he said.

A BBC correspondent in South Africa says the Biko family suspect the officers are trying to gain an amnesty without telling the full story.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

08 Dec 97 | Background
Steve Biko: Martyr of the anti-apartheid movement

Internet Links

South African Government

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Independent Newspaper group on TRC

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Dam builders charged in bribery scandal

Burundi camps 'too dire' to help

Sudan power struggle denied

Animal airlift planned for Congo

Spy allegations bug South Africa

Senate leader's dismissal 'a good omen'

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Zimbabwe constitution: Just a bit of paper?

South African gays take centre stage

Nigeria's ruling party's convention

UN to return to Burundi

Bissau military hold fire

Nile basin agreement on water cooperation

Congo Brazzaville defends peace initiative

African Media Watch

Liberia names new army chief