As two of her alleged attackers appeared in court Monday, a white American student killed by members of a black mob last week was cremated after a private ceremony that was attended by South African friends--both black and white.
The two suspected assailants of Amy Biehl, 26, of Newport Beach were ordered held in custody until a Sept. 13 hearing.
The prosecutor identified them as Mzikhona Nofomela, 22, and Mongenzi Manqina, 21, members of the youth wing of the radical black Pan Africanist Congress. They have not applied for bail.
The court appearance and memorial service came as activists seized on the tragedy to condemn the use of violence by the black majority to achieve democracy.
Local African National Congress official Dullah Omar told mourners at Maitland Crematorium: “The morality of the liberation movement must always be superior to those of the oppressors. We must not tolerate any form of racism and intolerance,” he said. “We have to steel ourselves. We have to pull ourselves together because we have to carry on the struggle for the ideals she fought for.”
Another ANC official, Bulelane Nqcuka, said he was “ashamed that she was killed by the very people she tried to liberate. . . . When our people can turn on their friends, it shows the bestiality of this system.”
But there also were signs that some extremists would try to scuttle attempts to end the violence.
As peace-seekers held new meetings and planned marches, dissenting black youths chanted “one settler, one bullet” outside the courthouse where the two suspects appeared. The chant is aimed mainly at white South Africans. And, there was similar chanting Monday outside a court in the Wynberg suburb in connection with a church massacre.
At the same time, the ANC launched a new initiative Monday to slow violence in this racially torn nation. In a meeting held close to where Biehl died, representatives of community, political, health and women’s groups, as well as the president of the local chamber of commerce, met to discuss how violence is harming the nation’s prospects for democracy and stability.
People at the meeting suggested that criminals are creating confusion by using ANC and Pan-Africanist Congress slogans. Some said the task ahead is to isolate the “gangsters and thugs.”
ANC escorts were needed to ensure the safety of meeting participants. Cars bearing ANC flags and flashing lights waited at a supermarket about a mile away to lead convoys of visitors and the media to the meeting.
Meanwhile, residents near St. Gabriel’s Roman Catholic Church, also in Guguletu township, the site of Biehl’s slaying, told the parish priest that they want to meet there on Wednesday evening to discuss ways of making the township safe.
And the national peace effort is gearing for a massive demonstration throughout the country on Thursday, which has been designated Peace Day. Events include a five-minute standstill at noon, with a minute of silence, followed by a broadcast peace song and the holding of hands. People are being urged to wear blue ribbons and attend evening church services.
At Monday’s cremation service, a procession was led by ANC officials and Biehl’s roommate, Melanie Jacobs.
Biehl’s family, who live in Newport Beach, did not attend. Biehl was slain Wednesday when her car was ambushed by a mob of 100 while driving three black friends to their homes. She was to have returned home Saturday, then traveled on Monday to Rutgers University, where she was a Ph.D. candidate in political science, specializing in South African issues.
Jacobs told reporters she personally wanted to carry her friend’s ashes home to the United States, “because she was my sister.” Biehl, a Fulbright scholar attending the University of Western Cape, had been in South Africa studying and also working for human and voters rights.
Mourners rose for a moment of silence before her coffin was removed. Many hummed softly with bowed heads.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.