Amy Biehl, 26, was to have flown back home to California last night after spending a year on a Fulbright scholarship at the University of the Western Cape. She studied women's issues but concentrated her energies into helping Cape Town's black community and developed close relationships with local African National Congress officials.
Kader Asmal, a law professor at the university and a member of the ANC's national executive, described her yesterday as 'a beautiful American'. 'She was in and out of the townships and was received well always. She was so gentle and so genuinely concerned with the emancipation and freedom of black South Africans. She had become one of us really, a part of the struggle.'
Biehl, whom Professor Asmal described as 'a very attractive blonde', was in Guguletu dropping off two black friends at their homes on Wednesday evening when a brick smashed through her car window. She was hit in the face but managed to drive on.
According to police and witnesses, youths lining the street pulled her out of her car and when she tried to flee was beaten and stabbed repeatedly until she died. The youths were chanting 'One settler] One bullet]', the battle- cry of the radical Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC). When one of her companions, Singiswa Bevu, pleaded with the attackers to let her go, one of them replied that they would not because she was 'a settler'. Ms Bevu was stabbed in the right hand when she tried physically to intervene.
Allan Boesak, the ANC chairman in the Cape Town area, did not hesitate to blame PAC, which enjoys more support in the Guguletu area than almost anywhere else in South Africa. 'This incident can only be described as racism in its crudest form,' Mr Boesak said. 'The ANC is deeply shocked and angered that such acts should take place at a time when all should be united in their efforts to achieve peace and racial tolerance in our country.'
Mr Boesak had pledged on Wednesday night that the ANC would use its township network 'to ferret out and identify these youths and to relay the information to the police'. After an all-night hunt by the police and ANC members, two suspects, aged 17 and 18, were arrested yesterday morning. The police said that the two would be charged with murder on Monday.
The dead woman's mother, Linda Biehl, was quoted yesterday as saying her daughter had wanted to give herself to the African people. Speaking from her home in Newport Beach, California, Mrs Biehl said: 'I was very worried about her, but she would say: 'Mom, I'm okay. I'm doing this because I want to do this. You can't live your life in a shell'.'