A prominent black attorney and opponent of South African apartheid was murdered and mutilated in Durban Thursday night. His friends and family blamed right-wing extremists.

Griffiths Mxenge, 46, on occasion had received legal and financial assistance for political trials from the Washington-based Lawyers Committee for Southern Africa. His wife said that when he did not arrive from the office she reported to police and then began to search for him.

Nonyamezelo Mxenge, who is also an attorney, eventually found her husband's body in the city morgue, where it had been brought after being dumped in the black township of Umlazi.

"My husband died in great pain. His throat was slashed, his stomach ripped open and his ears almost cut off. The rest of his body was covered with stab wounds. I don't believe this is the work of ordinary thugs," Mxenge said. "It was done by someone who was opposed to what he stood for."

Mxenge said she and her husband had been uneasy because Wednesday their dogs had been poisoned.

Right-wing violence and harassment have always been hazards for black and white opponents of apartheid. But deaths resulting from this violence have been rare.In January 1978, Durban was shocked when a white, political science professor, Richard Turner, was shot dead through his living-room window. The murder, widely believed to have been politically motivated, has never been solved.

Mxenge earned his law degree while serving a three-year sentence in the early 1970s, after being convicted of taking part in activities of the banned African National Congress.