Amy Biehl remembered 30 years after murder

Linda Biehl with Easy Nofemele and Ntobeko Peni. PICTURE: Brian Moody

Linda Biehl will return to Gugulethu on Friday to mark the 30th anniversary of her daughter’s murder.

On 25th August 1993, Amy Biehl, an American Fulbright scholar working in South Africa against apartheid, was beaten and stabbed to death. In 1998 the four youth convicted of her murder were granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) after serving five years of their sentence – a decision that was supported by Amy’s parents.

“When we heard the terrible news about Amy the whole family was devastated, but at the same time we wanted to understand the circumstances surrounding her death. Soon afterwards we left for Cape Town,” Ms Biehl said.

“We took our strength in handling the situation directly from Amy. She was intensely involved in South African politics and even though the violence leading up to free elections had caused her death, we didn’t want to say anything negative about South Africa’s journey to democracy. Therefore, in 1998, when the four men convicted of her murder applied for amnesty, we did not oppose it. At the amnesty hearing we shook hands with the families of the perpetrators.

“Peter spoke for both of us when he quoted from an editorial Amy had written for the Cape Times: ‘the most important vehicle of reconciliation is open and honest dialogue’,” she said.

“We are here to reconcile a human life which was taken without an opportunity for dialogue. When we are finished with this process we must move forward with linked arms,” she said.

A year after Easy Nofemela and Ntobeko Peni, two of the convicted men, were released from prison, an anthropologist who was interviewing them sent the Biehls a message to say they’d like to meet them. They were running a youth club in Guguletu Township where Amy had been killed and wanted to show their work to her parents. The meeting resulted in the formation of the foundation that was named after Amy with aims of preventing crime among youth.

“We wanted to meet them. It wasn’t about pity or blame, but about understanding. We wanted to know what it would take to make things better. Some time later we took them out to dinner. We talked about their lives and our lives, but we didn’t ask about the past. We were all looking to the future,” she said.

Mr Nofemela and Mr Peni now work for the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust, a charity which dedicates its work to putting up barriers against violence.

Since Peter Biehl’s sudden death in 2002, Linda still regularly returns to Cape Town to carry on her work with the foundation, which provides educational programmes and opportunities to youth in townships.

Thirty years on, Ms Biehl and the staff of Amy Foundation, and community members will use the day to remember the thousands of South Africans who gave their lives for a free country.

They will rally at 2pm Motale Properties Hall and walk to the Amy Biehl memorial site to lay flowers.