It was broad daylight in the village of Cala, according to eyewitnesses, when police gunned down the young man in the main street, then pumped bullets into him as he lay at their feet.
As a small group gathered, someone asked who it was who had been shot.
"A terrorist," one of the policemen replied.
"No," came a weak voice of protest from the dying figure on the ground, "I am from the Ntsebeza family."
That eyewitness account of the death a few days ago of black activist Batandwa Ndondo, 22, in the tribal "homeland" village of Cala seemed to indicate the start of a new phase in the racial violence that has convulsed South Africa for the past 14 months.
The black rebellion, which began in big city ghettos such as Sharpeville, Crossroads and Soweto, then spread to small-town South Africa, has now reached the pastoral backwaters of what the South African government calls tribal "homelands," regions the government theoretically has severed from the rest of the country to give to blacks to run themselves since they have been denied political rights in the central government. Blacks make up about 70 percent of the population of South Africa but have no voice in government outside the small and scattered homelands.
A few days after Ndondo was shot, another black student leader, Ngwako Ramalepe, died in another tribal homeland called Lebowa, soon after he was arrested by the local police.
Transkei, in which Cala is situated, is the showpiece homeland, the first to be granted nominal independence nine years ago today. Yet today it is a place of tension as the winds of rebellion blow across its pastoral landscape of grazing livestock and thatched huts dotted across rolling green hills.
A fuel depot on the outskirts of the little capital of Umtata was sabotaged recently. A power station and a bridge were blown up by limpet mines. Police found a cache of 20 mines nearby.
There have been two shoot-outs between police and guerrillas of the African National Congress, who the local security forces say slip across the mountainous border with independent Lesotho.
Young blacks are boycotting the schools, and in the eastern Umzimkulu district, militant students killed a teacher with a reputation for molesting schoolgirls.
Faced with this unaccustomed militancy, the tribal government of President Kaiser Matanzima has adopted measures modeled on those of the white-minority government in Pretoria that established his nominally independent state.
Security police have arrested hundreds of persons without charges, 880 in September alone, according to an ecumenical body of Christian ministers called the Transkei Council of Churches. A 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew has been imposed throughout the territory, which is 1 1/2 times the size of Maryland. A state of emergency declared after student unrest last year makes it illegal for young persons to be outside their schools at any time of the day or night, unless they are accompanied by an adult.
The Transkei police openly are being accused of assassinating Ndondo, who was a student leader at the University of Transkei until he was refused readmission this year following a purge of radicals there.
No action has been taken against his alleged killers, who were seen lunching in an Umtata restaurant the day after the shooting. Instead, a number of Ndondo's relatives and other witnesses to the shooting have been arrested without charges under the territory's security laws.
"The police handling of the murder smacks of a cover-up," said veteran civil rights activist and legislator Helen Suzman.
President Matanzima seemed to come close to admitting that the killing had official sanction when he blamed Ndondo recently for blowing up the fuel depot in June.
"Many people are asking why Ndondo was killed," Matanzima said. "He is the one who came from Lesotho and exploded a bomb in Umtata . . . . Must you all be killed because of these people? Your president, your prime minister and your Cabinet will not allow such atrocities to take place in Transkei."
Many factors have contributed to the emergence of resistance in this seemingly tranquil rural haven.
There is a history of resistance. The Transkei was the scene of a series of frontier wars between white settlers and black tribes in the early 19th century, and Cala residents still proudly recount tales, passed down through the generations, of women carrying spears disguised as bundles of firewood to their warrior menfolk.
This early militancy found an echo when many members of the territory's Xhosa tribe resisted the government's plans to establish it as a separate tribal state. Many prominent members of the underground African National Congress, including its imprisoned leader, Nelson Mandela, are Xhosas with their roots in the Transkei.
Most of the territory's 2 million people live in grinding poverty. Like the other nine homelands created under the apartheid system of segregation, Transkei has been described as a labor reservoir whose black men are recruited to work as migrant laborers in South Africa's mines and industrial cities, leaving their families behind.
Until recently, poverty appeared to have created a population that was despondent and apathetic, but the protests in the rest of South Africa seem to have fanned the old embers of resistance into life.
Adding to this has been the emergence of a militant new generation from Transkei's schools and its university, which was established soon after indepedence in 1976.
There is a deep irony in this, reflecting an ambiguity in the role of Matanzima and his brother, Prime Minister George Matanzima. They are tribal nationalists, relatives of Mandela, who say they opted for independence so they could advance the interests of the Xhosa tribe, but who are ostracized by the African National Congress and its followers who view them as collaborating in apartheid's system of political segregation and for emulating Pretoria's repressive methods.
Matanzima revamped the educational system Pretoria has devised for blacks and established the University of Transkei, giving its administrators a relatively free hand to import lecturers from other parts of the world, including black Africa.
The policy was soon to backfire. Gerhard Totemeyer, a political scientist who was dean of arts at the university, ran polls that showed that a majority of the students supported the African National Congress and rejected the homeland leadership.
As militancy increased at the university, Matanzima ordered a purge of students and staff, including Totemeyer, last year. The student representative council, with Ndondo as its vice president, was detained, then suspended.
Ndondo, who was studying law, was one of many students refused readmission when the university reopened this year. He went back to Cala, where he is related to a distinguished local family, the Ntsebezas, and took a job as a field worker for a health organization.
According to a friend who has since gone into hiding, four men and a woman who described themselves as Transkei security police arrived at Ndondo's home on a recent Tuesday morning, arrested him and bundled him into a van.
Nontobeko Tunzi, who lives in a house nearby, said she saw Ndondo struggling in the van and heard him shout: "Help, they are killing me."
"The vehicle stopped and he broke free and jumped out," Tunzi said in an interview. "He started running to the house. The driver jumped out and began shooting at him but missed."
Ndondo ran around the house with the police chasing and shooting at him, Tunzi went on. As he approached the front door a bullet hit him in the shoulder and he fell, near where Tunzi's 10-year-old daughter, Tundezwa, was playing.
The police "fired many times at Ndondo at close range while he was lying on the ground," Tunzi added.
An autopsy showed Ndondo had been hit by eight bullets. According to the doctor's report, two penetrated his body while he was upright, the rest while he was lying on the ground. A 9-mm bullet was found in his body.