Cape Town – A 39-year-old man has been arrested for public violence after disturbing scenes of racism broke out at Brackenfell High School on Monday.
As the EFF descended on the school to protest an exclusionary private matric event that was attended by white pupils only, a group of white men, armed with baseball bats and stones, attacked the peaceful group of protesters.
They were videoed assaulting a woman with a baseball bat, and pelting EFF members who retreated.
EFF deputy provincial chairperson Nosipho Makamba-Botya said she met with the school governing body (SGB) soon after, and was informed that those who became physically violent were not from the school community, but instead a group of “armed right-wingers” who hijacked the demonstration.
“In what was a display of pure white arrogance, armed right-wingers attacked EFF members, undermining their constitutional right to protest and assaulting them physically.
’’Gun shots were fired, police officers were man-handled by racist cowards who were hiding their faces. This was all done in defence of racism,” the EFF said.
— IOL News (@IOL) November 9, 2020
The EFF left shortly after the violent outbreak, and law enforcement and police then had to implore the majority white group to leave as well.
Black pupils said they were neither informed nor invited to the private function, organised by parents as the school cancelled their matric ball due to Covid-19.
While the school has distanced itself from the event, the EFF says it must accept some responsibility because of the teachers’ attendance. The Western Cape Education Department has said that it could not take action against anyone because it was a private party.
The department is, however, investigating allegations that the school may be guilty of racism in its staffing practices. Currently, the school has two coloured teachers on its staff of 40 educators. No black teachers have reportedly been employed at the school since 1994.
A parent, who asked to remain anonymous for the protection of her child who is a leader at the school, said racism has been prevalent throughout the pupil’s schooling career, including when he attended Brackenfell Primary School.
“Throughout his primary and high school years, they would have meetings and speak in Afrikaans, and we constantly had to remind and ask them to speak English as we don’t understand.
“I am glad this incident has highlighted the situation. Racism and being made to feel excluded is a part of the culture of the school,” she said.
Two pupils of colour who spoke to the Cape Times yesterday said they were never asked to join the ball, which was arranged by white parents.
“No coloured or black learners were asked to join. Racism is a big problem at the school, this is not an isolated incident,” one of the pupils said.
Police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said Public Order Police and other law enforcement agencies attended the protest, involving about 100 people.
“Police took action to disperse the crowd. No injuries were reported.
A case of public violence was opened for investigation and a 39-year-old suspect was arrested. People dispersed with no reports of violence. The area is currently quiet,” Rwexana said.
The EFF said it would meet to discuss its next course of action.
It emphasised that the event was the secondary issue to rampant racism and exclusion.
A parent on the organising committee has maintained that they were not racist in their actions, and that it “just so happened” that only white pupils attended, as their children invited who they wanted to.
Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer condemned the violence.
“Whatever one’s views may be, the fact is that the event in question was privately organised, at a private venue, by private individuals.
“The school had nothing to do with the organisation or management of that event. It was not supported, funded or endorsed by the school in any way.
“The school did not hold a matric ball this year owing to Covid-19 concerns.
“The WCED cannot and will not take action against educators who were invited as guests and attended a private event, which they did not organise, and had no prior knowledge of the attendees.
“We are also not in the business of prescribing who people must invite to private events outside of school property.”
A statement from the school said it was also not involved in the event.