Excerpts from SAPA Coverage of Biehl Amnesty Trials

CAPE TOWN, July 7 1997


    The killers of American exchange student Amy Biehl make their long-awaited appearance before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's amnesty committee on Tuesday to argue for their release from prison.
    In terms of the legislation governing the commission, the four applicants must prove that the August 1993 murder of the 26-year-old Fulbright scholar was politically motivated.
    Mzikhona Nofemela, Ntobeko Peni, Vusumzi Ntamo and Mongezi Manqina must also show that the killing was carried out on behalf of, or in support of, a publicly known political organisation.
    In their amnesty applications, the four claim they were members of the Pan Africanist Congress' military wing, the Azanian People's Liberation Army, and its student wing, the Pan Africanist Students' Organisation.
    Peni said the killing was carried out with the approval of Paso's regional executive.
    Explaining the political motivation for the murder, Peni, a former chairman of Paso's Guguletu branch, said: "I rose against the government and in the process a white woman was killed."
    All were given 18-year prison sentences for their part in the mob attack in which Biehl was beaten and stabbed to death after driving friends home to Guguletu.
    ....Her killers' amnesty applications were originally due to have been heard in early May but were postponed to allow her parents, who live in the United States, to attend the proceedings.
    The Biehls are not expected to oppose the applications.

CAPE TOWN, July 8 1997


    The parents of slain American exchange student Amy Biehl came face-to-face with their daughter's youthful killers at their amnesty hearing in Cape Town on Tuesday.
    Before the proceedings got underway, Peter and Linda Biehl shook hands with the parents of Mzikhona Mofemela, Ntobeka Peni, Vusumzi Ntamo and Mongezi Manqina, who are serving 18-year prison terms for their role in the mob-attack on the 26-year-old Fulbright scholar.
    Pan Africanist Congress leaders are expected to meet the Biehls privately later on Tuesday.
    The Biehls sat silently, showing no emotion, as the four PAC members arrived at the packed venue for their Truth and Reconciliation Commission amnesty hearing. They are not expected to oppose their amnesty applications.
    Relatives of the men, PAC supporters and journalists were among the audience watching the proceedings.
    Biehl's parents were seated in the front row of the audience flanked by Melanie Jacobs, one of Biehl's former room-mates, and Rolene Miller, who manages the Mosaic Programme, a project supported by the Biehl Foundation.
    The four applicants, three of whom were wearing new sneakers, looked uneasy as press photographers crowded around them at the start of the proceedings.

CAPE TOWN, July 8 1997


    A Pan Africanist Congress member appling for amnesty for the 1993 murder of American exchange student Amy Biehl on Tuesday said even if he had known she was a "comrade" he would probably have killed her because she was white.
    "Whites were our oppressors. We had no mercy for a white person...," Ntobeko Peni told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's amnesty committee in Cape Town.
    According to witness testimony at his nmurder trial, Biehl's companions had implored the mob who attacked her in Guguletu to desist as she was a "comrade".
    Peni said he had not heard this plea.
    However, asked whether he would have acted any differently, he said: "I don't think so. At that time we were in very high spirits."
    He had earlier attended a Pan Africanist Students' Organisation meeting were members had been inspired by the militant speeches of speakers who had urged them to "prepare the land for Apla (the Azanian People's Liberation Army)" - the PAC's military wing.
    "Whites were our oppressors we had no mercy for the white person... A white was a white person in our eyes," Peni said.
    He said the PAC slogan "one settler, one bullet" was specifically directed at white people.
    Biehl's parents, who were present at the hearings, listened impassively as he apologised for the murder.
    "I feel sorry and very down-hearted, especially today, realising the contribution Amy Biehl played in the struggle.
    "I realise it was bad. I took part in a killing of someone who we could have used to achieve our aims.
    "Amy was one of the poeple, who in an international sense could have worked for the country."
    He added: " I ask Amy's parents, friends and relatives to forgive me.
    "Just to hear they have forgiven me would mean a great deal. It would mean starting a new life.
    "I have led an unnormal life in the struggle for South Africa. I am sorry and ask for forgiveness."

CAPE TOWN, July 8 1997


    The slaying of American exchange student Amy Biehl in August 1993 was inspired by the Pan Africanist Congress slogan "one settler, one bullet", her killers told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Tuesday.
    ....Describing the attack on Biehl as "mindless and savage", committee lawyer Robin Brink disputed the applicants' assertion that it had been politically motivated.
    Manqina, a leading member of the Pan Africanist Students' Organisation branch in Guguletu at the time of the incident, said he had stabbed Biehl "because I saw her as a `target', a `settler'".
    "I have alsways been inspired by the slogan `one settler, one bullet'," he said.
    Shortly before the attack on Biehl he had attended a Paso meeting at Langa High School where "inspiritational" and militant speeches had been made.
    Later, he and about 50-60 other youths went walking along NY110 towards NY1 on the lookout, he said, for government and company vehicles to stone.
    "At this point we were singing and chanting political slogans... I saw that a truck was being stoned by the rest of the group... A beige Mazda 323 was also being stoned.
    "The car stopped and the driver (Amy Biehl) stumbled out... and started running towards the Caltex petrol station. We chased after her and I tripped her and she fell down...
    "I sat in front of her... I only stabbed her once in front on her left hand side. Seven or eight others, armed with knives also stabbed her."
    He said Paso's executive had ordered its members to make the township ungovernable and to assist the PAC's armed wing, the Azanian people's Liberation Army, in winning the land back for the African people.
    "I regarded this as an instruction to also harm, injure and kill white people."
    Killing Biehl, he said, had been an opportunity to put the slogan "one settler, one bullet" into practice.
    In his testimony, Peni said he understood the slogan to apply to every white person who came into the line of fire during any operation by Apla.
    Brink asked: "How would killing Amy Biehl help you achieve your of aim of returning land to the African people?"
    Peni: "We believed that the white minority would realise we wanted our land back."
    Brink: "By murdering Amy Biehl in the most brutal fasion the African people would get their land back?"
    Peni: "Yes, that is my evidence." 
CAPE TOWN, July 8 1997


    Pan Africanist Congress leaders on Tuesday met the parents of American exchange student Amy Biehl, who was killed by PAC supporters in Guguletu near Cape Town on August 25, 1993.
    Former Azanian People's Liberation Army commander-in-chief Johnson Mlambo, PAC secretary-general Ngila Muendane and Pan Africanist Students' Organisation president Ignatius Molapo, in Cape Town for the amnesty application of four PAC members convicted of Biehl's murder, met Peter and Linda Biehl, who travelled from the United States for the amnesty hearing.
    ....A PAC spokesman said the meeting as aimed at "reconciling the PAC and the Biehl family".
    The Biehls have already met the parents of the applicants and, before proceedings began in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Cape Town offices on Tuesday morning, shook their hands.
    Former PAC president Clarence Makwetu last year told the Truth Commission that Amy Biehl was "wrongly targeted and killed".
    "We expressed our regret to Amy Biehl's family in a letter to the US ambassador. We restate this position, yet again through the TRC, but misguided as the deed was, we support the applications of all those convicted and sentenced for the offence," Makwetu said in the PAC's submission to the commission.

CAPE TOWN, July 8 1997


    The parents of slain American exchange student Amy Biehl understood the context of the South African struggle better than most South Africans, who could learn from their example, Pan Africanist Congress secretary-general Ngila Muendane said on Tuesday.
    Speaking after the PAC leadership held a private meeting with Peter and Linda Biehl at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's head office in Cape Town, Muendane said "we were really humbled by their attitude".
    "We are proud to have people like this. People who are of good heart, people who have reached out and said `look we understand how she died', people without bitterness, without even thinking that Amy died because she was white.
    "I am sure South Africans will learn from the attitude that the Biehl family has taken."
    Muendane, PAC national executive member Johnson Mlambo and Pan Africanist Students' Organisation president Ignatius Molapo hugged Biehl's parents in a gesture of reconciliation at the meeting, said an aide who was present.
    They also conveyed PAC president Stanley Mogoba's request for a meeting with the Biehls during his forthcoming visit to the United States.
    ....Muendane told a media briefing that the presence of the PAC leadership at Tuesday's hearing was aimed at "reaching out to the family of Amy".
    "They must know the PAC and understand it. We told our story to South Africans, to the country, to the TRC as to the context of our struggle.
    "The country understands, but we were not sure whether Amy's family understood.
    "To our surpise we found that Amy's parents understood the context of the struggle in South Africa even better than most South Africans do and we're quite heartened by that."
    Biehl died within the context of a just war that was not of the PAC's choosing, Muendane said.
    Lack of resources had seen broad instructions from leadership issued to people at local level who in turn had to choose their own targets.
    "Most targets were appropriate. Some of the targets were unfortunate, that's where Amy fell in," he said.
    "The Biehl family understand that Amy is one of the many peple who died under the same circumstances. We were humbled by their attitude. That they felt proud Amy was involved in this..."
    The PAC would pay tribute to Biehl's work in South Africa, especially relating to youth, women and "the totality of the struggle of humankind", Muendane said.
    ....Papers Biehl had written would be used as projects for PAC constituencies, such as its student, women and youth wings, to the "extent that Amy's name could be written on stone in this country".
    "Amy is part of this country and the Biehl family are permanently part of this country too. There is no way that they are going to be deterred from this country." 
© South African Press Association, 1997
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