Maki Skosana had lived in this black community for all but three of her 24 years. She had a 5-year-old son and a job in a leather factory. She died eight days ago because someone said she was a police informer, and she died on camera before the eyes of millions.

The mob caught her at the cemetery, where she had gone to attend a funeral. While a television crew filmed, the crowd chased her across a field, beat her with sticks and knocked her down. They kicked her and tore her clothes off and pinned her to the ground with a large rock.

Someone poured gasoline on her, and someone else lit a match. Then they chanted and danced while she writhed.

Her death occurred the same day that South Africa's white-minority government declared a state of emergency here, and white officials have cited the incident as an example of the lawlessness and terror they are seeking to stop.

She became the 98th black person to die at the hands of other blacks in unrest this year. A black policeman killed today in the troubled eastern Cape region became the 99th. Recent victims also have included two children, ages 6 and 10, who were killed and their father seriously injured when a grenade exploded inside their house in the township of Tembisa earlier this month. He, too, had been branded an informer.

But the death of Skosana is more than a story of mob justice and brutality. It is also about a community at war not only with the state but with itself, and about a family still puzzling over the fate of a soft-spoken but strong-willed daughter.

Today, around a simple wooden table in the living room of the small concrete house that Skosana called home, her mother, uncle and older sister tried to piece together the trail of events that led to her death. While her son Godfrey played in the narrow, grassless back yard, they also tried to weigh their own feelings about the freedom struggle that claimed her life.

"I think we are all for the struggle, even if we lost one of our sisters, because we live in very bad conditions in South Africa," said her uncle, Stephen Skosana. "I don't know if she was right or wrong. We feel for the people who did this, and we feel for ourselves, too."

What follows is based on their account, on information released by the police and on an affidavit filed in court by a young black activist. But many questions remain -- among them whether, in fact, Skosana was working for the police. It is known that she was active in the antiapartheid movement.

The story began last month, when a black stranger came to Duduza. He drove a minivan, and he confided to a few people that he was a member of Spear of the Nation, the military wing of the outlawed African National Congress, which is the main underground movement fighting white rule. He said that he had access to weapons and that he was looking for recruits.

He found fertile ground in this township on the eastern edge of the Johannesburg area. Duduza is one of the poorest of the overcrowded black communities whose labor feeds the mines and white suburbs near Johannesburg.

Most of the roads are dirt, there is no sewage system, and electricity is only for a lucky and affluent few. Rent and school boycotts have been in effect almost all of this year.

More than 50 black policemen once lived in Duduza. Their homes are easily identifiable because all have now become burnt shells.

The only police left in town huddle behind barbed wire at the burned-out community hall or patrol the streets in armored vehicles. Residents have started calling the township by a new name -- Beirut.

Hatred of the police is strong, especially among youths, and reciprocated in full.

"They shoot a boy, and they wait for one, two, three hours waiting for him to die without calling an ambulance," said the Rev. Henry Maphanga, the township's Dutch Reformed minister.

"And all these young kids, they go to the window and look. They start to hate the policeman. They start to hate the white man," the minister continued.

"I feel sympathy with the police. They are our people. But the whites don't want them, and neither do the blacks."

Skosana worked a 10-hour day, but when she was off she hung out with the young activists of her neighborhood.

She was a member of the Duduza Youth Congress, a community organization loosely affiliated with the United Democratic Front, South Africa's largest internal opposition movement.

She knew local members of the Congress of South African Students, another opposition group tied to the front, and some people here said she introduced them to the self-described Spear of the Nation agent.

In any event, he made contact with congress members in Duduza and neighboring KwaThema and Tsakane.

On June 24, he drove some of them to a desolate spot out of town, where he produced two hand grenades. He explained how to use them -- pull the pin, count to three and hurl them -- and gave a demonstration.

The participants decided to attack the homes of two policemen in Tsakane and KwaThema and a power substation. It is unclear what targets were agreed upon in Duduza.

The man appeared that night and distributed grenades and a limpet mine for the power station. He told the youths to strike at midnight.

In KwaThema, three students headed for the policeman's house. The first pulled his grenade's pin and it exploded in his hand, killing him instantly. In Tsakane, two others died the same way. The limpet mine also exploded prematurely.

In Duduza, the planned attack was broken up by the sudden arrival of police. One youth was killed in an explosion as he ran, and three others took refuge in a house close to Maki Skosane's. Police pursued them, and they ran again. Within 100 yards of the house, they were all blown up. A forensic specialist hired by the families theorized that the three had sought to use their grenades against the pursuing police.

Witnesses said the police then withdrew, leaving the dismembered bodies in a dirt alley. During the night, dogs began to gnaw at one. When police returned after dawn to collect the corpses, they used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse an angry crowd. On each corpse, the right hand was either blown off or badly mutilated.

The grenades were Soviet-made RGD5s, according to police. Their fuses might have been tampered with, but a more plausible explanation, police suggest, is that they were adapted with trip wires for use as booby traps -- perhaps at time of manufacture -- and that they were substituted for ordinary grenades, either inadvertently or on purpose, by their mysterious supplier.

Rumors in Duduza said the police had a hit list and that the congress youths had been on it. Another congress member, Nicholas Shata, applied to court for a restraining order against police, claiming that the eight deaths were part of a police plot and that he, too, was marked for death.

From its headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, the ANC said police provocateurs posing as freedom fighters had caused the deaths. Police dismissed these claims as lies.

Another rumor soon started, that Skosane had tipped off police to where the three youths had taken cover that night. Her married sister, Evelyn Moloko, says that is impossible, that Skosane had just finished a shift at the factory and was home asleep when the final explosions occurred.

Soon Skosane began to hear the rumors. She denied them to her friends in the student and youth congresses and to her family. But the stories continued, as did rumors that activists were preparing to burn down her house.

"I said to her she must leave Duduza," recalled Moloko. "She said she wouldn't leave because she was innocent."

Her mother, Diana Skosana, says Maki insisted on attending the funerals of the grenade victims and the funeral eight days ago of another victim of recent unrest. It was at the second funeral that she was killed.

Moloko got a phone call that afternoon from a friend, saying her sister had been killed at the cemetery. She walked there and found the grounds deserted and Maki's charred body still pinned under the rock. She went to a nearby house and borrowed some newspapers. "I covered her with newspapers, then I went to the police."

Police removed the body at dusk. Soon pictures of Skosana's death were being broadcast on the state-run television network on the same newscasts on which South African President Pieter W. Botha announced the state of emergency.

Skosana's bed is propped up in the corner of the bedroom. A shopping bag of her clothes sits on another bed, one of two she was buying on time for her younger sisters.

At the table this morning, Diana Skosana sat erect, nodding gently as her brother-in-law, Stephen Skosana, tried to give meaning to what had happened. In the end he focused on apartheid itself.

"What the government does is too much for me," he said. "We live in poverty because we must, according to the people who rule us. We must do unhealthy things. We must kill each other because of the way we live."

Skosana will be buried in the same cemetery where she died. It will not be a political funeral, with freedom chants or angry rhetoric, said Stephen Skosana, and he does not know who in the community will be brave enough to attend.

"If nobody comes, it's all right," he said. "We will bury her. Who comes can come."