Auction house may not sell Biko autopsy: court


The grave of Steve Biko on the outskirts of the town of his birth, King Williams Town. The five men found responsible for killing Biko were not granted amnesty at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

JOHANNESBURG - The High Court in Johannesburg on Wednesday halted the auction of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko&39;s original autopsy documents.

"Yes, I can confirm that. The court has ruled in favour of the Biko family and the sale will not go forward," Steve Biko Foundation spokesman Thando Sipuye told Sapa.

Biko&39;s family and the foundation filed an urgent application in the court earlier opposing the auction of Biko&39;s autopsy report as well as those of another activist Ahmed Timol.

The auction house, Westgate Walding Auctioneers, on its website described the documents relating to Biko from 1977 as containing certificates from pathologists, a certificate in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977, and the post-mortem report.

The autopsy consists of 43 pages and the photographs referred to in the text are not present, but the autopsy of Biko&39;s brain has the "cyclostyled" signature of Dr NS Proctor on each page.

"It is the contention of the Biko family and the Steve Biko Foundation that this document is the property of the Biko family and should not be sold for private gain by third parties," said Sipuye.

Biko&39;s son Nkosinathi Biko expressed his anger at the auctioning of the document.

"The autopsy report of any deceased person is central to the dignity of the deceased," he said.

"An action by an unrelated party that amounts to auctioning off national history for private commercial reasons fails the nation at the level of morality and decency, and certainly fails at honouring the memory of those who laid their lives down for that very nation."

He wanted the document to be preserved.

Bidding on Biko&39;s autopsy was meant to start at R70 000, and Timol&39;s at R20 000.

In the 1960s and 70s, Biko was a student leader and later founded the Black Consciousness Movement.

On August 18, 1977, Biko was arrested at a police roadblock and interrogated. He was tortured in prison and on September 12, 1977, died in a prison cell in Pretoria.

Timol was also an anti-apartheid activist, and died in police custody in 1972. He was alone with a policeman when he supposedly fell out of a window at then John Vorster Square.

Yesterday marked 37 years since the South African police were cleared of charges related to the killing of Biko.