PETER CYRIL JONES (7 December 1950 – 15 February 2023)

The Biko family, as well as the Steve Biko Foundation, were saddened by the news of the death last night of the stalwart of black consciousness, Peter Cyril Jones, following an extended period of ailment as a result of multiple strokes, the first of which occurred in 2019.

PC, as he was fondly known, graduated from Gordon High School in Somerset West in 1967 and in 1968, registered for a BCom degree at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). This was the year of gestation of the South African Student’s Organisation, which was officially inaugurated in July 1969. PC became part of the establishment of the first SASO branch at UWC. In 1969, he, with others, attended a national SASO conference at the University of Natal as delegates, which led to his first encounter with many of the national leadership, including Bantu Stephen Biko; albeit that in the context of this conference there was little direct interaction between the two.

In 1972, PC was again part of the establishment of the first branch of the Black People’s Convention in the Western Cape and served as its Treasurer as well as its Regional Organiser. It was in this capacity that he met Steve Biko for the second time, when he attended the annual BPC Conference held at the Anglican Church in Ginsberg in July 1973. During this trip, Biko was eager to engage with the Western Cape leadership of BC, in part to brief them of the advanced initiatives towards the establishment of a united political front across the liberation movement.  This interaction set in motion what was to become a close working relationship and friendship between the two. Biko who was banned from February 1973, became increasingly reliant on his colleagues and PC was one of his dependable associates involved in various projects. Following the annual conference of the BPC of January 1977, also at the Anglican Church, Biko (then the newly announced Honorary President of the BPC) invited PC to relocate from the Western Cape to King William’s Town and to join the Black Community Programmes – the development arm of the movement – as a Branch Executive. His principal base while in the Eastern Cape was at the home of Attie Orai and his family, 3 Rocky Lane, Schornville, although he spent much time at Zanempilo and as a guest at the Biko home in Leightonville, Ginsberg. PC brought accounting and finance skills with his organisational capacity to bear on all aspects of the movement’s work.

On 17 August 1977, Biko and Jones undertook a trip to the Western Cape to deal with various matters internal to the organisation, as well as to further unity talks with the New Unity Movement through a meeting with its leader, Neville Alexander. Jones had been seized with the preparatory elements of this trip. This risky expedition was in violation of Biko’s banning order which restricted him to the magisterial area of King William’s Town. Regrettably, the meeting failed to happen and because of certain discomforts while in Cape Town, they decided to abort the trip and to urgently drive back to base. They were arrested on 18 August 1977 in Grahamstown, an hour from home.

Of the two, PC lived to tell the story of the atrocities they encountered during detention. He would later describe this experience, and the murder of his friend and comrade as “a tear that refuses to drop”. In 1997, PC faced his surviving torturers Harold Snyman, Gideon Nieuwoudt, Ruben Marx, Daantjie Siebert, and Johan Beneke to support the Biko family and the nation in successfully opposing the granting of amnesty for their atrocities.

This was in keeping with his role in the many years following Biko’s death throughout which PC remained a pillar of strength to the Biko family. We fondly remember that after his banning order ended in 1984, he and his family paid several visits to our home, often bringing with them many new friends. His family home and that of the late, last, president of the BPC, Kenny Rachidi became regular holiday destinations for Biko’s then young children, Nkosinathi and Samora. PC would often take the children on his excursions to the ocean he so loved, where he served as a volunteer lifesaver.

In recent years, PC was to return to the Eastern Cape as a community developer, working with many of his old comrades in support of rural development.

Ntsiki Biko is particularly grateful that she had an opportunity to reconnect with PC just a few weeks ago, and share memories of happy times. In bidding farewell to this great giant, we would like to offer our sincere condolences to his wife Ingrid and his youngest daughter Malaika. We thank Ingrid for sustaining PC’s infectious smile throughout his long illness.

We also send our condolences to his older children Yolisa and Gaynor and their mother Emilia, together with the broader Jones family.

Though saddened, we are comforted in the knowledge that PC’s soul is not in the wilderness. May his many departed comrades rise in giving him a joyous welcome to his deserved place at their ancestral table.

Long live the spirit of Peter Cyril Jones; Long Live!


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