Celebrations around the life of activist and black-consciousness leader Steve Biko must cut across the country's political divides, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday.
"The South African people need to celebrate the life of this hero, beyond political divides," he said in a speech prepared for delivery at the opening of the Steve Biko Heritage Centre in the Eastern Cape.
"We are proud to have Steve Biko as one of the heroes of our people, whose memory should live together in our hearts and minds."
He said the centre would "bear testimony" to Biko's contribution to the country.
"We have dedicated the year 2012 to heritage... It is most appropriate that we end the year with a tribute to this leading son of our country."
In September 1977, Biko was arrested by police at a roadblock in Port Elizabeth. He later died from a brain haemorrhage that resulted from massive injuries to his head.
Zuma said Biko was killed because he "dared to challenge injustice head-on".
"The regime killed a man who was dedicated to the freedom, justice, and human rights that all, including former oppressors, are enjoying in our country today," he said.
"Indeed, our country has come a long way. Our freedom came at a huge price, and we should never take it for granted."
He said the centre was meant to be a "living monument" that used Biko's memory to inspire people to work for development in South Africa.
"Our intention, working with the Steve Biko Foundation, is that this centre must serve as the epitome of the values, norms, and mores that Mr Biko wanted to inculcate among all the oppressed people of South Africa."