SOUTH AFRICA WATCH : Trial and Error

In life, Amy Biehl illustrated a deep, idealistic commitment to working at the grass-roots level to make democracy a reality in South Africa. Now, after her death, the difficulty in bringing to justice those accused of killing her illustrates some of obstacles that challenge the shaky transition to majority rule in that country.

Last summer, the young Newport Beach woman, a Fulbright scholar doing humanitarian work, was killed by radicals opposed to racial accommodation in South Africa.

Last week, three of the seven suspects in the fatal stabbing were released after a witness who was to testify against them refused to do so, later telling reporters that he was worried that his political organization, the African National Congress, could not guarantee his safety.

Jubilant members of the radical Pan-Africanist Student Organization, supporters of the released suspects, seized the opportunity to voice their anti-white views and reinforce opposition to ANC negotiations with the white government.

The backdrop of continuing political violence in South Africa, and its high cost in human life, by now ought to have convinced those opposed to negotiations that a peaceful transition to democracy is the only way to go. And the leaders of the ANC and other black political leaders ought to commit themselves to the task of bringing the Pan-Africanist Student Organization into the process of building an orderly path to the future.

The high-profile trial is yet another indication that South Africa has a long way to go.

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