Freedom fighter remembers Steve Biko

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Horst Kleinschmidt is a freedom fighter born in Namibia and raised in Johannesburg. He got involved in politics after he got a scholarship to study teaching at Witwatersrand (Wits) University.

It is at Wits where he met late struggle icon, Steve Biko.

“I was interested in what Nusas, the liberal left wing student union was doing, and I went to listen to this in 1968 at the Wits National Conference and there were only three black students. At one stage the President said, ‘Can we all stand up now and sing Die Stem?’ Because we all wanted to prove our loyalty to the country, however critical we are, I stood up and sang ‘Die Stem’ in its English and Afrikaans version and sat down again. Except for the guy opposite me, he didn’t stand up and when we sat down he stood up and sang Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, which I had never heard before.”

Kleinschmidt says he was impressed.

“I was terribly impressed for one guy to stand up alone and hold his fist and sing Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. I went round the table and said ‘I’m Horst Kleinschmidt and I want to tell you that I am impressed with your courage and commitment.’ And he said ‘and my name is Steve Biko and I am a first-year student in medicine.’ And that’s how I started a friendship with him and we worked closely together through my student times.”

Kleinschmidt was arrested several times and released without charge. He fled the country after being tipped off that he was going to get arrested. He lived abroad for 15 years.

Kleinschmidt rated democracy as red and expressed concern over the commissions of inquiry.

“If I see the commissions at work; if I see what the Zondo Commission does, the other inquiries that are going on and the responses to them then I see a shrillness and a call to arms. As it were, that is very worrying and we need to do much to allow this from festering. But for now, I will, therefore, call the red card because we are at critical crossroads in this country.”