Mourners place flowers and light candles outside Hoërskool Driehoek in Vanderbijlpark after pupils were killed when a walkway collapsed. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation on Saturday condemned the racist and inhumane sentiments reportedly expressed by Black First Land First’s spokesman Lindsay Maasdorp in relation to the Hoërskool Driehoek tragedy.

"Maasdorp is reported to have come out in support of a comment said to have [been] 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," foundation executive director Neeshan Balton said in a statement.

Maasdorp was said to have tweeted: “Why should we frown on the ancestors’ petitions to punish the land thieves including their offspring.”

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? One must truly have very little understanding about not only the ideals of our own Constitution, but universal values, to resort to such inhumanity,” Balton said.

"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’,” Balton said.

The foundation’s anti-racism manager Busiswe Nkosi said 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 said.

African News Agency (ANA)