What lit the Grabouw fuse

20 March 2012 - 08:32
By Nashira Davids and Philani Nomembe

Umyezo Wama Apile s chool in Grabouw first made headlines in January when parents complained about overcrowding, a lack of teachers and basic facilities.

At the forefront of the campaign to get MEC Donald Grant to fix the problems was John Michaels, the chairman of the Grabouw Elgin Civic Organisation.

"There is no space for teachers to move around. Each class has between four to five chairs. Most of the children have to sit on their school bags or they have to stand," said Michaels.

Violence erupted as community members demanded to see Grant. After several disruptions at the school, Grant temporarily closed it.

ANC p rovincial s ecretary Songezo Mjongile said Grant refused to go to Grabouw.

"He is dealing with that community with contempt, which we feel that it is a careless reaction from the minister on an important issue of education," said Mjongile.

Grant, on the other hand, said despite a commitment by local government to have a new school "up and running" by April 10, the civic organisation continued with disruptions.

A DA councillor in Grabouw joined the ANC recently and the town will vote in a by-election next month.

Mjongile rubbished claims that the violence was politically motivated.

"This problem in Grabouw did not start with the by-election ... is not the first time that the community is up in arms over this issue," he said.

Zak Mbhele, spokesman for Premier Helen Zille, said she condemned the violence.

"For now, we are leaving it in the hands of the Theewaterskloof Municipality and the Western Cape education department as the immediate role-players to address and respond to those grievances relevant to them and to the police to contain public violence and minimise further damage to property," said Mbhele.

Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said four people were injured and treated at Helderberg Hospital.

"Fifteen people were also arrested for public violence," Van Wyk said.