Six black pupils slowly approached a memorial of flowers set down against the fence of Die Hoërskool Driehoek in Vanderbijlpark, an industrial city about 60km south of Johannesburg. Four white pupils had been crushed to death by a collapsed walkway shortly after the school assembly; many more were recovering from injury in nearby hospitals.

Once again a terrible human tragedy brought out the worst and the best in us.

A spokesperson for a violent and racist political fringe group made headlines saying he would celebrate the deaths of these white children. God and the ancestors were sending a message to whites and these offspring of “land thieves” which prompted a social media response: “Who was God punishing when black people died in shack fires?” Then this group of black pupils in immaculate school dress show up at the school with flowers. One of the two girls in the group lowers herself to place the flowers and then closes her face with both hands, overcome with grief. A white teacher alongside the group wipes tears from her eyes. This must have been one of the most deadly starts to the academic year in SA. At a Durban university a student was shot and killed during protests and confrontations with security guards. This tragedy comes in the wake of another student death in 2018 at a Pretoria university under similar circumstances — students and security staff in a deadly standoff. Once again, a...

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