Los Angeles-based Nate D Sanders Auctions said in a statement that bids for the letter Biko wrote from King William’s Town on 12 January 1977 would open at $3 000.

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The firm, which describes itself as an “online leader for auction and consignments including autographs, memorabilia, historical documents, fine art, books and more”, did not say how it came into possession of the letter or how it verified its authenticity.

The apartheid South African government barred Biko from leaving King William’s Town because it viewed the BCM as a threat and wanted to prevent Biko from organising anti-apartheid activities around the country.

In the letter, Biko requested permission to meet with Mohapi’s attorneys regarding his inquest.

“I have been asked by the attorney representing the Mohapi family in the above matter to make myself available for consultations on the 16th January with their Counsel. as well as attend the inquest which has been set down for the 17th and 18th January,” wrote Biko.

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“Kindly grant me the necessary permission to enter the premises of the King William’s Town Magistrate’s Court on the relevant dates and to attend the consultations, which will be held somewhere in King William’s Town. I do not as yet know where exactly Mr Mxenge plans to have the consultation.”

Sadly, on 12 September 1977, Biko died after a brutal beating by apartheid South Africa police forces.

– African News Agency