Renaming of Student Union

By Sarah Botha & Kelebogile Mpshe

Bantu Stephen Biko Building

Pic: Desiree Schirlinger – Justice Jones delivering his speech

The Student Union was officially renamed the Bantu Stephen Biko Building on Wednesday, 17 September. The opening ceremony featured guest speaker Professor Barney Pityana, a close friend of Stephen Biko, as well as Biko’s son, Nkosinati Biko.Vice-Chancellor Dr Saleem Badat began the address by admitting that, “There are aspects of [Rhodes University’s] history which are shameful,” referring to Rhodes’ past practising of racial segregation before it was legislated. SRC president of 2008, Xolani Nyali commented by saying, “We must progress together and never must we stand on the sidelines and watch as others are denied those things we consider to be fundamental to our humanity”. Quoting Milan Kundera, Badat said Rhodes’s struggle is “the struggle of memory against forgetting”.Professor Pityana testified to Biko’s character, mentioning Biko’s love of learning. “He would have been a student all his life,” Pityana joked. Both Pityana and Biko spent a lot of time debating with the student leadership outside the Student Union. Pityana hopes Rhodes University students will honour Biko’s memory beyond the Bantu Stephen Biko Building. Guest speaker at the event, Justice Joss Jones began his address by saying, “Acknowlegment alone is not enough.” He then extended a sincere apology to those who were hurt by the University’s actions, as well to the entire Biko family. Nkosinati Biko concluded the event saying, “Spaces like this defy the silencing of his [Biko’s] voice”.


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