The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation condemns the racist and inhumane sentiments reportedly expressed by Black First Land First’s spokesperson, Lindsay Maasdorp, in relation to the Hoërskool Driehoek tragedy.
Maasdorp is reported to have come out in support of a comment said to have posted by Facebook user, Siyanda Gumede, in which he said he “doesn’t have a heart to feel pain” for the three children who died after the collapse of a walkway at the Vanderbijlpark school. He had assumed that the children were all white.
Maasdorp is said to have tweeted: “Why should we frown on the ancestors’ petitions to punish the land thieves including their offspring.”
The Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton, said that the comments were “despicable”. “It is deplorable that the BLF’s spokesperson can use a tragedy of this nature as a platform to spew racist venom. These are ordinary school children who have lost their lives in such tragic manner. Irrespective of their race, class, religion, gender or ethnicity, basic humanity should dictate that we empathise with their families, friends and the school for the pain that this loss has brought about.”
“What sort of a debased value system must one have to almost ‘celebrate’ the deaths of children?” Balton questioned. “One must truly have very little understanding about not only the ideals of our own Constitution, but universal values, to resort to such inhumanity.”
He added that the Foundation would be visiting the school to extend its condolences and demonstrate its objection to the sentiments expressed by Maasdorp. “We hope that others do the same, and that the outpouring of support for the victims continues.
“We also commend Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi for his actions and Twitter comments in support of the Driehoek schooling family, calling on them to not pay any heed to ‘those who want to use race or politics to inflict more pain’.”
The Foundation’s anti-racism manager, Busiswe Nkosi, said that it was encouraging to see the level of public indignation following the posting of the racist sentiments. “It’s essential that the public continues to voice its outrage against racism. It’s not the first time that a member of the BLF expresses such racist vitriol. Recently, BLF leader Andile Mgnxitama threatened to kill white people. It’s about time that organisations such as this one, are prevented from inflaming racial hatred in this country. We are calling on the South African Human Rights Commission to impose harsh penalties on individuals and organisations who sow racial discord.”
Nkosi added that this is not the first time that a school tragedy has been used to perpetuate racism. “Several years ago, a group of young people accompanied struggle veteran Ahmed Kathrada to the site of the Westdene Dam tragedy. The incident occurred years before, where white pupils drowned after the bus they travelling in plunged into the dam. We expressed our support for the for relatives of the victims. This was after a social media user posted that he was going to celebrate the anniversary of the tragedy with a ‘braai’.
“It is unacceptable that we allow these types of incidents to repeat themselves. Racism, hatred and racial violence will do little to build the type of society that we need to be working towards.”