On 25 August 1993, Amy Biehl, a 26-year-old African-studies major from California, agreed to give three friends a lift into the Cape Town township of Gugulethu. Amy was in South Africa researching the role of women in the coming transition to democracy. Now, with her studies complete, she was about to go back to America. She knew how bloody the years since Mandela’s release had been, but she’d also previously travelled in and out of Gugulethu without incident. This time, however, she ended up driving towards a demonstration organised by the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). The PAC is an African nationalist movement that split from the ANC in the 1950s and whose supporters used the slogan ‘one settler, one bullet’, with anybody white being counted a settler. At the sight of Amy, members of the crowd attacked. A brick thrown through the windscreen hit her and when, disoriented and terrified, she stumbled from the car, she was chased, brought down and stabbed. ‘What did I do?’ she is quoted as saying (though we are never told who heard this), followed by ‘I’m sorry’, her last words before dying.
Four people were found guilty of Amy’s murder and sentenced to eighteen years’ imprisonment each. But they didn’t have to spend long in jail. Having applied for amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), they successfully argued that theirs had been a political act. As a result their sentences