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Amy Biehl Was a Casualty of the System

January 27, 1994|JAN HERMAN

Athol Fugard says he was sickened last summer when he learned of the murder of Amy Elizabeth Biehl, the white Fulbright scholar from Newport Beach who was pulled from her car and stabbed by a mob screaming anti-white slogans in the black township of Guguleto, South Africa.

"Her death was horrible, awful," he said, recalling that the idealistic, 26-year-old Biehl had been studying the role of women during South Africa's current political changes.

"The slogan that crowd was chanting--'One settler! One bullet!'--is one of the bitter fruits of apartheid. It's not just the young men who are chanting it, you know, but the young women as well."

Nevertheless, Fugard adds, white South Africa bears as much responsibility for Biehl's death as the black youths who actually wielded the murder weapons and shouted the slogans.

"That violence and that rage were created by the system," he said.

"I'm not absolving those young people of responsibility. But I would be so blind, I would be guilty of such terrible complacency if I didn't acknowledge that it is the system of white privilege and white domination that created two generations of lost young men and women for whom violence is the only way forward, as they see it."

Fugard still believes, however, that South Africa's national election on April 27 will come off as planned.

"What disturbs me very much, though," he said, "is that even the most astute and generous of politicians--men like Nelson Mandela on the one side and (President) Frederik W. de Klerk on the other--have to drop below the level of statesmanship the country needs and jockey for power by playing party politics.

"Everyone is making promises that once the election is over, we'll address the issue of violence. But it would be smart to try and talk the young people out of that attitude now, before the elections, because they might end up voting for the wrong politicians."

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