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Thursday, November 18, 1999 Published at 12:41 GMT

World: Africa

School stabbing inflames SA racial tensions

Black and white pupils keep apart at Vryburg High School

The trial of a black South African school pupil convicted of stabbing a white pupil has once again inflamed racial tensions in the South African town of Vryburg.

Police were out in force in the town on Thursday as Andrew Babeile, 20, appeared in court to be sentenced for attempted murder. Sentencing was postponed until May next year.

Babeile was transferred to another school following the stabbing incident in February. He was found guilty last month of attempted murder.

His defence counsel has argued that the stabbing was related to the high level of racial tension at Vryburg High School.

The school has seen ugly racial confrontations since 1996, when black students were first admitted into the previously all-white school.

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The white community in the largely agricultural town was reluctant to see the school opened to all races, despite legal provisions for equal access to education.

Thirteen white parents have been charged with public violence following an incident in which they allegedly assaulted black pupils at the school.

The government of North-West province appointed a black deputy head teacher in an attempt to defuse the tensions.

But in July, the school's white-dominated governing committee tried to block the appointment, saying the correct application procedures had not been followed.

Counter charges

In a similar but unrelated case, a black schoolboy accused of stabbing a white schoolgirl has laid counter charges.

A police spokesman said the girl had been charged following an incident in Groblersdal in Mpumalanga province.

She is accused of calling the boy a "kaffir" - a term of racist abuse - and attacking him when he teased her and her friends for smoking on the school premises last week.

On Tuesday, the girl picked out the boy at a police identity parade, saying he was responsible for cutting her upper left arm and right forearm.

Reports say it is not yet clear whether the girl was stabbed or whether she was cut when she fell against a fence.

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