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Biko family mourn Donald Woods

Woods
Woods ensured the world became aware of Biko's death  


CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- The family of slain black South African activist Steve Biko have paid tribute to anti-apartheid campaigner Donald Woods, who died on Sunday.

Woods' friendship with Biko -- a leader of South Africa's Black Consciousness movement who died in detention after being tortured by apartheid security police -- formed the basis of Richard Attenborough's 1987 film "Cry Freedom."

"Donald's life should be a lesson in particular to the white people of South Africa...that we can all become agents for change," Biko's son, Nkosinathi, told Reuters news agency.

"Donald did not always hold the politics for which he became known. It was his preparedness to discuss issues with people like my father that moved him to the centre."

Former South African President Nelson Mandela described Woods, who was 67, as an outstanding South African and said: "We shall remember him as a personal friend who gave selflessly of himself to advance the cause of his country."

Woods, who died after battling cancer, was editor of the Daily Dispatch newspaper in South Africa when he became friends with Biko, who was labelled a terrorist by the apartheid regime for preaching black pride and self-sufficiency,

Biko was arrested by apartheid police, tortured and driven naked, injured and in chains to Pretoria, where he died of head injuries in September 1977.

As editor of the Daily Dispatch, Woods ensured Biko's death was not a forgotten legacy of the apartheid regime.

Former Cape Times editor Tony Heard told Reuters: "Donald taught us the need for creative courage and in that sense he was an early practitioner of advocacy journalism."

"He was one of the first to use the pen to show that the emperor had no clothes...and once he had shown that, others came to see it, too," he added. "He had a substantial impact, not only on the country, but on the craft of journalism."

Biko's sister, Bandi Mvovo, rejected allegations from critics that Woods exploited Biko's death.

"People have that perception, but I can confidently say that Steve and Donald had a friendship with a lot of respect and it has lasted beyond Steve's death," she told Reuters.

Nkosinathi Biko said his family had been in touch with Woods' family in London throughout his illness and in connection with a memorial service and the burial of his ashes in South Africa.

Woods' last visit to the country was in April when he attended Nkosinathi Biko's wedding.

"Donald was well known in South Africa, but perhaps not as honoured here as he was abroad. There are many people who helped the struggle against apartheid who still must be honoured here," Biko said.

He also dismissed criticism that Woods benefited more from the relationship than his father.

"That is neither here nor there, now. A man has died and to the extent that we agree with his work we should honour him," he told Reuters.

"There were benefits for both of them in the relationship: Steve Biko was a banned person who could not speak or be published. Donald was a voice in the Eastern Cape, a way to reach an audience," Nkosinathi Biko said.

"Whether people agreed with his ways or not, the fact is that he was useful in bringing to the fore the issues of Black consciousness," he added.

Nkosinathi also revealed that Woods had been given a Xhosa tribal name as a tribute to his work.

"They called him Zweliyanyikima -- the one that shakes the earth. That is how I would like to honour him when he is buried here," he told Reuters.






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